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Can anyone kindly explain why this sentence is correct?

Complex musical numbers are a defining characteristic of most Italian films.

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    Yes: number mismatches between subject and predicative are common, cf. "The only thing we need now is new curtains". Btw, the subject is plural not compound.
    – BillJ
    Aug 5 '19 at 8:46
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    The sentence is fine grammatically, but nonsense semantically unless "Italian" is a misspelling of "Indian".
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 5 '19 at 9:56
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    A defining characteristic suggests that there are other defining characteristics. The defining characteristic suggests that complex musical numbers are the main one. And yeah, this has to be Bollywood, not Cinecittá.
    – KarlG
    Aug 5 '19 at 11:58
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    A defining characteristic of Italian films is not a subject; it is a noun phrase that is the predicate of the sentence, following the be form that is the required auxiliary for predicate nouns. He is an idiot, She is a genius, They are the ones, all use predicate noun phrases, following be, using whatever articles those noun phrases use. They are not subjects; they are predicates and they don't have to agree with anything. Aug 5 '19 at 15:27
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    I won't edit as this renders J Lawler's comment n/a, but OP probably intends 'Can a plural subject be followed by a complement beginning “a…”? BillJ assumes this in his answer. This makes the question a duplicate; otherwise, it's possibly ELL level. (plural vs singular noun addresses this.) And Agreement in singular noun - is - are plural noun. Aug 6 '19 at 13:43
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In a comment, John Lawler wrote:

A defining characteristic of Italian films is not a subject; it is a noun phrase that is the predicate of the sentence, following the be form that is the required auxiliary for predicate nouns. He is an idiot, She is a genius, They are the ones, all use predicate noun phrases, following be, using whatever articles those noun phrases use. They are not subjects; they are predicates and they don't have to agree with anything.

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