For years whenever China told Hollywood to jump, the industry had but one answer … how high?
Studios drooled over China’s vast theatrical marketplace, with millions of movie goers eager to watch American popcorn franchises like “Fast & Furious.” And they did just that while filmmakers followed the country’s strict rules at every step.
- Adding Chinese characters to existing stories
- Shooting product placement scenes for Chinese theatrical editions
- Avoiding stories that depict China in a negative light
- Allowing films to be sliced and diced to appease Chinese censors
What did Hollywood get in return? Billions in extra revenue, that’s what. Plus, films that flopped stateside, like the “Tomb Raider” reboot, made enough coin in China to stave off financial doom.
The Alicia Vikander film earned $58 million in the U.S. and $78 million in China.
Meanwhile, the Hollywood elite ignored China’s human rights violations at every turn. Celebrities railed against Georgia’s strict abortion legislation but looked the other way as China operated concentration camps for minority Muslims.
China, which has detained hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in the largest-scale detention of ethic and religious minorities since World War II, has outfitted the facilities with concrete walls and guard towers, the report said….
Former detainees described being held in horrendous, brutal conditions with many blindfolded and handcuffed, being fed a starvation diet of rice, steamed buns and porridge but little or no meat….
They relayed stories about being subject to torture, solitary confinement, forced birth control, forced brainwashing sessions about Communist Party propaganda, and forced to speak only Chinese, as opposed to their native languages.
Not a peep from Hollywood, Inc., the same industry that weighs in on every minor news story with full moral bluster.
Now, China may no longer need U.S. movies to entertain its populace. The L.A. Times reports Chinese-made films dominated the country’s 2020 box office charts. The highest ranking U.S. film, “Tenet,” came in at number 11.
“Wonder Woman,” which hit theaters four years ago, earned $90 million in China. The sequel, “Wonder Woman 1984,” generated just $25 million following its late 2020 debut.
Yes, the pandemic forced Hollywood to hold back some titles that would typically fare well in China, like No Time to Die and Fast & Furious 9. Still, the article points out other factors that may make this turn of events the new normal.
China’s film industry is getting good at churning out hits with higher production values, better craftsmanship and big-time support from the Chinese Communist Party, and that is squeezing out English-language blockbusters. In 2019, eight of the top 10 moneymakers in China were domestic productions.
The top grossing film in China last year, The Eight Hundred, delivers the kind of razzle dazzle U.S.-based films once exclusively offered. Not anymore.
That’s not all.
Chinese consumers are relishing locally-produced content in the wake of the pandemic, the L.A. Times notes, stories with robust production values like their American counterparts. The government, eager to embrace film’s cultural soft power, is promoting patriotic fare for audiences to lap up.
Compare that to U.S. studios, which routinely strip away pro-U.S. elements to appease foreign markets.
Plus, the Chinese government’s censorial efforts are increasing with foreign imports, leaving less room for U.S. films to thrive.
Hollywood’s silence on Chinese human rights atrocities is galling enough. More recently, celebrities laid low as alarming news regarding China’s lack of transparency over COVID-19 leaked out.
Once again, vocal stars couldn’t spare a syllable about how China kept vital pandemic information from the public. We’re about to see two new documentaries on the subject, but industry players bit their collective tongue rather than place blame on Chinese officials.
Meanwhile, the Hollywood elite savaged President Donald Trump’s pandemic response while praising the work of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whos disastrous policies likely led to thousands of unnecessary deaths. What’s certain now is how his administration played fast and loose with the COVID-19 death counts.
Once again, Hollywood used its moral capital … poorly.
Add it all up, and it looks like China won’t be saving as many U.S. blockbusters as it had in the past. An already reeling Hollywood will have to find new ways to balance its ledgers as the theater industry tries to come back from the crippling pandemic.
It’s the latest body blow to an industry which sold its soul, and moral standing, for cash.
[Cross-posted from Hollywood in Toto.]