For some American viewers, Turkish soap operas are so addictive that they have pushed Hollywood movies aside. Kristen Korie, a middle-aged woman from Florida, said it has been more than a decade since she switched to Turkish series from Hollywood movies. "I left Hollywood around 2007 and started watching international entertainment TV on Netflix. So I watched a few Turkish series on Netflix, and I got hooked," she said during a Skype interview with Anadolu Agency (AA). Impressed by both the storylines of the series and the performances of the actors and actresses, Korie said they captivate the audience in a way Hollywood does not. "The main thing is that they connect with people and it's real. They reflect real people and how they feel."
Wildly popular Turkish TV series and films, which promote Turkish culture, tourism and products, are currently aired in more than 140 countries and have reached export figures of over $350 million per year. Turkey ranks second in global TV series exports only to the U.S. - the birthplace of Hollywood.
PROMPTED BY DESIRE TO LIVE IN TURKEY
Aficionados of Turkish series have gathered in a Facebook group called the Turkish Dramas Appreciation Group, with more than 9,000 members from around the globe.
Korie is among the managers of the social media gathering that discusses the latest Turkish dramas, actors and actresses, as well as to help one another find English subtitles.
Launched in early 2017, the group is just one among hundreds of such rapidly growing fan pages on social media.
The members of Korie's group are largely from Pakistan, she said, citing a recently conducted survey, with Americans coming in second. Turkish series are more than just entertainment for Korie.
"I would like to live there when I retire, at least for maybe a year, so I can visit everywhere," she said, noting her interest in Turkish culture and traditions.
"İçerde" ("Inside"), "Fatmagül'ün Suçu Ne?" ("What is Fatmagül's Crime?"), "Kara Sevda" ("Blind Love"), "Kurt Seyit" and "Şura" top the list of the group members' favorites, said Korie, with Kenan İmirzalioğlu and Engin Akyürek their favorite actors.
Sometimes finding it hard to wait for online access, the group organizes events to watch soaps on Turkish TV channels with a translator helping them. Some are even learning the Turkish language, Korie said.
"I wish that Turkish producers, actors and staff would really understand how popular their series are with English-speaking people," she added.
ISTANBUL TOUR FOR TURKISH MOVIE ENTHUSIASTS
Lena Gibson, 34, who traveled to Turkey's tourist hub Istanbul in April 2018, was among a group of 65 foreigners discovering the metropolis.
A rehabilitation counselor from Chicago, Gibson said the tour gathered members of the Facebook group from the U.S., Canada, Australia, South Africa and the U.K. "None of these people had met before; we all convened simply for a mutual admiration for Turkey, its culture, history and entertainment industry."
Visiting several historical places during the Istanbul trip, the group also met some Turkish celebrities, including Hilal Saral, Hazal Kaya, Kaan Urgancıoğlu and Melisa Pamuk.
"Sadece Sen" ("Only You") was the drama through which Gibson discovered the Turkish movie world.
Deeply influenced, she did nothing but surf online to find more Turkish movies.
"After watching the movie, my eyes were opened to it all, and I found myself fascinated by the food, the family dynamics, the blend of history and modern life in Istanbul, etc.," Gibson told AA.
Interested in Turkish history since then, she said, "Turkey has helped widen my knowledge of the Muslim religion as well."
The group will organize a second trip to Turkey this autumn sponsored by national flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY).
A group of 45-50 fans will spend a week touring Cappadocia, known for its cone-shaped "fairy chimneys," the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya and the capital Ankara.