China has long been a major source of revenue for the film industry – but as the country increases its censorship rulesCould Hollywood’s complicated relationship with China be coming to an end?
“China was the goose that Hollywood turned to [in order] to really recoup big investments and the huge capital that it takes to create these great franchises,” Chris Fenton, film producer and author of the book “Feed the Dragon” Yahoo Finance Live said in an interview last week (video above).
Fenton explained that the Hollywood-China relationship peaked between 2012 and 2016, but the Chinese market began to turn its back on the United States around 2018. At that time, the country’s film management regulations was assigned in the propaganda service of the Communist Party.
Since then, the relationship has deteriorated further, under pressure from Strained diplomatic relations between the United States and China and changing public tastes
Censorship and restrictions have come to a head as a result with major titles such as Disney’s “Black Widow,” “Eternals” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” as well as Warner Bros. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” have all denied releases in China.
Reasons for refusal can include anything the government deems inappropriate, such as depictions of homosexuality or content that violates the country’s socialist and nationalist values.
‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ was turned down after producers refused to delete the Statue of Liberty from the film, while Chinese regulators quickly rejected “Top Gun: Maverick” due to the presence of the Taiwanese flag on the back of Cruise Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s combat jacket. Beijing notoriously does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country.
“Maverick” also ran into trouble early in its production after Chinese production company Tencent Pictures (TCEHY), which signed on to co-finance the film in 2019, finally closed. abandoned due to the blockbuster’s pro-American messages.
Tencent reportedly thought the pro-American story would anger Communist Party officials.
“Today, [China’s censorship] is probably the worst I’ve ever seen in my career,” Fenton revealed, adding that the Chinese market is now projected as a zero for most Hollywood movies – a stark contrast to a decade ago.
According to data from the consulting firm Artisan Gateway quoted by The Hollywood ReporterAmerican-made films accounted for more than 48% of Chinese box office revenue in 2012 before dropping to 36% in 2016 and 12.3% in 2021.
A Hollywood… without China?
Hollywood slowly began to accept a box office without China.
“The fact that China isn’t as important to Hollywood anymore is a fantastic thing for the creative expression of these filmmakers,” Fenton said, citing the box office successes of “Spider-Man” and “Maverick” which have then ensured global security. received from $1.9 billion and $1.4 billionrespectively.
“We can still make movies without putting Chinese propaganda or storytelling into them, and if they’re relevant, if they have a universal tone, there will be consumer markets [in China] for future films.
“But right now we don’t have to appease Beijing with every movie we make,” Fenton added.
Hollywood has long been accused of bowing to China in order to maintain its lucrative box office opportunity. The country is embarking on a population of 1.4 billion with more than 600 million people ranking in the middle class.
“That’s a lot of dollars that could be chasing after that kind of content,” Fenton admitted.
Last year, ‘Fast & Furious’ star John Cena came under intense scrutiny after he apologized to China – in Mandarin – for calling Taiwan a country, highlighting the pursuit of profit of Hollywood.
But as China shuts down and political tensions continue to mount, Fenton argued it’s time for producers and filmmakers to start looking elsewhere.
Fenton cited India as a lucrative opportunity, in addition to markets in Latin America and Africa.
“If we can crack [those markets] we’re really going to start moving forward with a very strong momentum towards developing monetization of this great content that Hollywood generates.”
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