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World cinema is a term used primarily in English language speaking countries to refer to the films and film industries of non-English speaking countries. It is therefore often used interchangeably with the term foreign film. However, both world cinema and foreign film could be taken to refer to the films of all countries other than one's own, regardless of native language.
Technically, foreign film does not mean the same as foreign language film, but the inference is that a foreign film is not only foreign in terms of the country of production, but also in terms of the language used. As such, the use of the term foreign film for films produced in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada or other English speaking countries would be uncommon within other English-speaking countries.
World cinema has an unofficial implication of films with "artistic value" as opposed to "Hollywood commercialism." Foreign language films are often grouped with "art house films" and other independent films in DVD stores, cinema listings etc. Unless dubbed into one's native language, foreign language films played in English speaking regions usually have English subtitles. Few films of this kind receive more than a limited release and many are never played in major cinemas. As such the marketing, popularity and gross takings for these films are usually markedly less than for typical Hollywood blockbusters. The combination of subtitles and minimal exposure adds to the notion that "World Cinema" has an inferred artistic prestige or intelligence, which may discourage less sophisticated viewers. Additionally, differences in cultural style and tone between foreign and domestic films affects attendance at cinemas and DVD sales.
Foreign language films can be commercial, low brow or B-movies. Furthermore, foreign language films can cross cultural boundaries, particularly when the visual spectacle and style is sufficient to overcome people's misgivings. Films of this type became more common in the early 2000s, as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Amélie, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Y Tu Mama Tambien and Talk to Her enjoyed great successes in USA cinemas and home video sales. The first foreign and foreign language film to top the North American box office was Hero in the August of 2004.
Foreign language films that are particularly successful in international markets may be taken on by the large film distribution companies for DVD releases. At the other end of the scale, many foreign language films are never given a DVD release outside of their home markets. The majority of those DVDs that are given an international release, come out on specialist labels. These labels include:
Eurocinema (USA & Canada)