China has long been a significant source of revenue for the film business, but as the nation tightens its censorship laws, may Hollywood’s complex relationship with China be coming to an end?
According to Fenton, the Hollywood-China connection reached its peak between 2012 and 2016, but starting in 2018, the Chinese market started to shun the United States. The propaganda division of the Communist Party was tasked with managing the nation’s film management during the time.
According to movie producer and “Feeding the Dragon” author Chris Fenton, China was “the golden goose that Hollywood went to to really recuperate some major investment dollars, and the massive capital it takes to build these big franchises,” in an interview with Yahoo Finance Live last week (video above).
Since then, the relationship has gotten worse as a result of strained diplomatic relations between the United States and China and changing viewer preferences.
Anything the government deems inappropriate, such as depictions of homosexuality or material that goes against the nation’s socialist and nationalistic values, can be cited as a justification for denial.
As a result, censorship and limitations are at an all-time high, with major films like Warner Bros.’s ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ and Disney’s ‘Black Widow,’ ‘Eternals,’ ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,’ all being denied China distribution.
Producers of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” were unable to have the Statue of Liberty removed, while Chinese officials swiftly rejected “Top Gun: Maverick” because the Taiwanese flag was displayed on the back of Cruise’s combat jacket in the movie. Beijing is well known for refusing to acknowledge Taiwan as a sovereign state.
Early on in its production, “Maverick” also had difficulties as Chinese production company Tencent Pictures (TCEHY), which had agreed to co-finance the movie in 2019, later withdrew owing to the blockbuster’s pro-American messages.
According to reports, Tencent believed that the pro-American narrative would infuriate Communist Party leaders. The Chinese market is now predicted as a zero for most Hollywood pictures, a sharp contrast to a decade ago, Fenton said, adding that “today, is perhaps the worst I’ve ever seen in my career.”
The Hollywood Reporter cited consultancy Artisan Gateway data indicating that American-produced movies made up more than 48% of China’s box office income in 2012 before falling to 36% in 2016 and 12.3% in 2021. A China-free Hollywood?
Hollywood is gradually coming around to the idea of a box office without China. Fenton cited the box office successes of “Spider-Man” and “Maverick,” which went on to secure global receipts of $1.9 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively, as evidence that “the fact that China is now not as important to Hollywood is a fantastic thing for the creative expression of these filmmakers.”
There will still be markets for future films in China provided they are relevant and have a universal tone. We can still make movies without including any storyline or propaganda from China. Fenton continued, “But for now, we don’t have to appease Beijing with every single movie that we make.”
Hollywood has long been charged with pandering to China in order to preserve its huge box office potential. More than 600 million of the 1.4 billion individuals who call this nation home consider themselves to be middle class. Fenton acknowledged that “there is a lot of money that might be chasing this type of material.”
- Hollywood producer: China is no longer the “golden goose” for film studios
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