The Chinese influence on Hollywood box office

by on April 21, 2017 at 1:52 am in Economics, Film, Law | Permalink

Two years later, the quota of imported movies permitted into China was raised to 34 from 20 in a deal negotiated between then-Vice President Joe Biden and then-Vice President Xi. The deal all but guaranteed that most big-budget Hollywood features—except those with content deemed objectionable—would be shown in China.

“I prefer to watch Hollywood films because the chance of a domestic film being crappy is much bigger than a Hollywood film,” said Liu Jing, a 25-year-old postgraduate student studying finance policy in Beijing.

Ms. Jing said she became a fan of superhero films from Marvel Studios as a high-school student and now goes to movie theaters at least once a month.

Hollywood executives can rattle off the rules for getting a movie approved by Chinese censors: no sex (too unseemly); no ghosts (too spiritual). Among 10 prohibited plot elements are “disrupts the social order” and “jeopardizes social morality.” Time travel is frowned upon because of its premise that individuals can change history.

U.S. filmmakers sometimes anticipate Chinese censors and alter movies before their release. The Oscar-winning alien-invasion drama “Arrival” was edited to make a Chinese general appear less antagonistic before the film’s debut in China this year.

The superhero hit “Logan” was 14 minutes shorter in China after Chinese censors cut scenes of beheading and impalement.

For “Passengers,” the space adventure starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, a scene showing Mr. Pratt’s bare backside was removed, and a scene of Mr. Pratt chatting in Mandarin with a robot bartender was added.

Here is the full Eric Schwartzel WSJ piece.

1 vinny t April 21, 2017 at 2:12 am

does this explain avatar 2 3 4 5

2 Doug April 21, 2017 at 2:18 am

So, does this qualify as a negative externality on Western moviegoers or not? Show your work.

3 dan1111 April 21, 2017 at 3:45 am

The increased revenue from Chinese audiences is probably a net benefit for Western moviegoers.

Some might claim it is evidence of a Hollywood decline, but most big budget movies have been crappy throughout history. That may still be true, but standards are higher now than ever before. Just try to sit through one of the forgotten top-grossing movies from the 1960s or 1980s.

4 Ricardo April 21, 2017 at 9:53 am

Look at the list of top grossing films of the 60s and 80s: most of them are instantly recognizeable classics and generally well-regarded by critics.

5 bob April 21, 2017 at 12:34 pm

+1

6 collin April 21, 2017 at 4:16 pm

C’mon we only remember the good ones….Especially the 1960s were some real duds out there.

Look 1963, in the top ten was Dr. No, The Birds, Tom Jones and for some audience, It’s A Mad Mad World. Irma la Douce was fine but not great.

It also includes Cleopatra, How The West Was Won, VIPs The Sword In The Stone and The Son of Flubber…. We don’t remember these forgettable movies.

7 peri April 22, 2017 at 10:07 am

My theory for how much we used to inexplicably enjoy things like “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World” and “How the West Was One” and “Pink Panther” was: all ages watched together in the living room, and we were principally enjoying the family time (which my family wasn’t otherwise too good at). The pace of the movie was slower, plus with commercials – you could chat, and eat.

The movie was not 100% of the experience the way it is now.

8 Believe it ! April 21, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Might be the stupidest comment yet on MR stupider than any comment from mulp or prior

9 read this April 21, 2017 at 2:08 pm
10 Troll Me April 21, 2017 at 4:37 am

Way negative.

All pro-freedom themes will be banned from Hollywood studios that want to sell in China. They should make separate movies for the Chinese market instead of doing whatever they must to please the censors.

When Western media is brought it its knees by Chinese censors, in the name of profit, … man, half the presidents at least be rolling in their graves.

11 Axa April 21, 2017 at 5:01 am

They DO different movies. Did you miss the part about cutting and adding scenes?

How different is this from theatrical Vs director’s cut versions? Censorship is not Chinese monopoly.

12 Jan April 21, 2017 at 5:35 am

Those would seem to be small tweaks rather than different movies with different plots. I take his point that this undermines our ability to see movies with certain types of themes because studios may simply not want to produce something they can’t sell in China. However, I am not sure if the industry has gotten to the point of completely rejecting certain movies for this reason.

13 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 6:03 am

https://www.forbes.com/sites/danbigman/2012/11/21/why-do-north-koreans-invade-the-u-s-in-red-dawn-remake-for-the-money/

America has become a declining power and, like a dog, must kowtow before the Chinese for money. In spite of Mr. Trump bravado about being able to declare China a currency manipulator, American presidents have become little more than puppets like Romulus Augustulus and Pu Yi. Former American presidential candidate, Mr. Romney, talking about PBS, asked if it was worthy enough to justify begging the Chinese for even more money.

14 Axa April 21, 2017 at 6:23 am

“Small tweaks” is your personal opinion. However, directors and studios battle over the final cut of a movie. Sometimes this battles are just for a few seconds of screen time.

Also, put in the shoes of a censor for a minute. If censoring an scene does not changes the movie, how can it be approved if it still the same movie?

Directors, studios and censors share the idea that a few changes provide a different product, do we know more than them?

15 Ricardo April 21, 2017 at 10:11 am

The bigger issue is changing plots or rejecting entire story lines in the early stages to maximize the chances of a Chinese release. Fortunately, we don’t seem to be there yet as there is still a market for films aimed at a primarily domestic audience (the movie “Jackie,” for instance, isn’t obviously pandering to non-American audiences).

16 Troll Me April 21, 2017 at 12:36 pm

That was just one movie where they did some cuts like that.

Many movies – the entire premise of the plot and characters, etc., is shaped by the desire to meet the Chinese censors.

Soon, if it plays in China, it will be a movie to boycott.

Movies for the Chinese market is fine. Just as long as this doesn’t amount to Chinese censors blocking basically any form of social critique (etc.) which might appear in some form or another in a film.

17 Albigensian April 21, 2017 at 10:18 am

Movies are very expensive to make and, as the saying goes, “Nothing is quite as cautious as a million dollars.” Or $100 or $200 million, as the case may be.

You see movies as an art form; Hollywood sees it as a business. And it’s hard not to see the trend toward risk-aversion in newer Hollywood product, such as the endless sequels of sequels of sequels, on and on without end.

Of course, there are still movie studios willing to take risks (but usually with far smaller budgets). And fortunately for those of us who still read, authoring a book remains mostly a low-budget activity.

Which is to say, expecting Hollywood studios to be something other than what they are (mostly profit-maximizing entities producing entertainments for the largest possible market) seems unrealistic.

18 Troll Me April 21, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Risk aversion leads American patriot media to bow down to Beijing censors?

19 Amigo April 21, 2017 at 3:09 am

The raw brutality in Logan was a core part of the movie. I doubt it works the same without it.

20 Ted Craig April 21, 2017 at 9:04 am

I read a story from a guy who grew up in Sweden, which used to edit for violent content (they still might, I don’t know). He said the government censored the part in “The Empire Strikes Back” in which Darth Vader cuts off Luke’s hand. So audiences were left wondering what was going on in the final scene when he was having a prothetic attached.

21 JCC April 21, 2017 at 4:59 am

The way Chinese authorities try to control their society amazes me. “Fear the free men”

22 Rich Berger April 21, 2017 at 5:29 am

So Hollywood will bend over for the right people.

23 Jan April 21, 2017 at 5:37 am

I think they’re bending over for the money, rather than the people.

I thought Trump was going to do something about China. I’d say add this to the list, but i fear he’s already shown himself to be Xi’s lapdog.

24 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 6:45 am

Americans have long worshipped the Almighty Dollar.

25 Jan April 21, 2017 at 7:16 am

One of the things that makes America a great place to live in the long run.

26 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 8:46 am

If you like to see lives and human dignity sacrificed to this monstruous god.

27 Ricardo April 21, 2017 at 10:20 am

I don’t know much about the film Moonlight and haven’t seen it but, from what I read, it is about the life of a gay black male who grows up in a rough part of Miami. This is not obviously designed to appeal to mainland Chinese sensibilities. Fortunately, America is a very big, very rich country and not everything it does has to meet with Chinese approval to still be commercially viable.

28 Troll Me April 21, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Religious faith in that could prove very troublesome.

Maybe there’s some way to sell out that does not involve eradicating social and political comment from sociopolitical processes such as the production of cultural content?

29 Butler T. Reynolds April 21, 2017 at 10:00 am

No, Americans don’t worship the Almighty Dollar. Common mistake. More than most places on Earth, Americans are more free to worship whatever they want. The money simply follows.

30 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 10:17 am

“More than most places on Earth, Americans are more free to worship whatever they want.” And they “choose” to worship the Amighty Dollar. Actually, they are brainwashed by their corporate masters and whipped by their own government to do so. Under the American regime, greed is good and everything is for sail, even men’s souls.

31 The Centrist April 21, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Funny how people have morphed rather quickly from Trump will be a belligerent bully to he is a lapdog.

What’s next? That he will move from being seen as Hitlerian to a bungling fool?

32 Thiago Riberio April 21, 2017 at 12:56 pm

I’m an Ass Clown

33 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 1:25 pm

No, I am not, stop impersonating me.

34 Thiago Riberio April 21, 2017 at 1:32 pm

I’m a fat Ohio Ass Clown

35 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Is anyone else aroused by binoculars or is it just me?

36 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Stop.

37 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 4:39 pm

In the name of Prophet Bandarra, I demand you stop or I will be forced to take severe actiom!

38 Thiago Riberio April 21, 2017 at 6:17 pm

I just stuffed some binoculars up my Ass Clown ass.

39 Thiago Riberio April 21, 2017 at 6:31 pm

I’m actually a 56 year old fat Ohio accountant from Ackron who has never been as far as St Louis let alone Brazil

40 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 6:48 pm

No, I am not, I am a Brazilian at tne height of his mid-30s and my family history goes back to Portugal’s Age of Discoveries. Iam sorry you can not say the same. Not everyone can have the noblest roots.

41 Thiago Riberio April 21, 2017 at 7:40 pm

By “Brazil” I mean the steak restaurant in Akron

42 Thiago Riberio April 21, 2017 at 7:41 pm

Those Binoculars feel good up my ass

43 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 7:46 pm

You are a pathetic impersonator.

44 Jan April 21, 2017 at 4:28 pm

He’s a belligerent bully until he comes up against someone who punches him in the mouth. And it’s both hilarious and sad.

45 Thiago Riberio April 21, 2017 at 6:38 pm

I’m belligerent iuntil someone slaps my mouth with a cock

46 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Shut up, stupid impersonator.

47 Axa April 21, 2017 at 6:41 am

They have a lot of experience on that. They developed their skills with the Legion of Decency and the MPAA’s Production Code.

48 Ironman April 21, 2017 at 5:52 am

How China could use its box office influence to force Hollywood into making better movies.

49 Rich Berger April 21, 2017 at 8:17 am

Finally, an intelligent comment.

50 rayward April 21, 2017 at 7:09 am

“Time travel is frowned upon because of its premise that individuals can change history.” Didn’t Mao change the history of China?

51 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 8:53 am

“All reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality, they are not so powerful. From a long-term point of view, it is not the reactionaries but THE PEOPLE WHO ARE POWERFUL.” – Chairman Mao

“The east is red, the sun is rising.
From China comes Mao Zedong.
He strives for the people’s happiness,
Hurrah, he is the people’s great saviour!
(2X)

Chairman Mao loves the people,
He is our guide
to building a new China
Hurrah, lead us forward!” – The East is Red, revolutionary Chinese Song (attrib. Li Youyuan)

“Mao was “70% right and 30% wrong” – Deng Xiaoping, Chinese Communist leader

52 Dan L April 21, 2017 at 8:18 am

Product placement in Blockbusters by decade: 90s – soft drinks; 00s – cars; 10s – China

53 Bill April 21, 2017 at 8:33 am

Follow the money.

54 Stormy Dragon April 21, 2017 at 10:24 am

Another big rule is never mentioning the existence of Tibet, which is why the Ancient One in Dr. Strange was suddenly an Irish woman instead of a Tibetan monk.

55 Gerber Baby April 21, 2017 at 10:30 am

“Two years later, the quota of imported movies permitted into China was raised to 34 from 20 in a deal negotiated between then-Vice President Joe Biden and then-Vice President Xi”

This is a good time for the “free trade” people to tell us how wonderful and beneficial it is that we have “free trade” with China.

56 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 11:33 am

Americans exchanged their primogeniture for a mess of pottage and cheap shoes and jeans and cheap chalupas. They sold their children in bondage to the Chinese Moloch as, says the Bible, Joseph’s brothers sold him.

57 A. Ginsberg April 21, 2017 at 2:13 pm

was there something found wanting in the American Moloch such that it was preferable to solicit the Chinese Moloch instead of or in addition to the one we already have?

58 Thiago Ribeiro April 21, 2017 at 2:52 pm

The Chinese Moloch can pay even more for the blood of the innocent.

59 Milo Fan April 21, 2017 at 12:44 pm

+1

60 Bob April 21, 2017 at 2:03 pm

I thought the Alt-Right hated Hollywood and viewed it as a destructive influence?

If something is very destructive, don’t you want it not confined to the US, but dispersed elsewhere, so that the US alone isn’t weakened by it?

61 Sam Haysom April 21, 2017 at 2:53 pm

The argument would be that since Hollywood can clearly bend over for foreign masters it’s time it learns to bend over for American masters too. It seems ridiculous for an American industry to be allowed to make propoganda for a foreign nation at the same time that it also demands the right to be extremely critical of its own nation during those times that a democrat isn’t in the whir house. It demonstrates that all hollywoods anti-censorship posturing was hollow and completely cynical.

62 Bob April 21, 2017 at 6:41 pm

You must not be familiar with the Alt-Right’s view of Hollywood. The Alt-Right’s problem with Hollywood is not that it simply is too “critical” of the US and not patriotic or jingoistic enough. The Alt-Right views Hollywood as a singularly malevolent, insidious, and destructive element in ways which it’s not best to get into here.

63 Jason Bayz April 21, 2017 at 3:39 pm

Way to miss the point, which is that the current system isn’t really “free trade,” it’s a system of barriers and regulations that the
politically connected can get around(to access foreign markets supposedly already open to American competition) or lobby to have the benefit of a continued protected market in America. Joe Biden lobbied the Chinese to let in more American movies. I’m sure that has NOTHING to do with the fact that Hollywood studios fund his party. Absolutely none, he’d do the same for everyone. Here’s another example: airlines were in the news recently. Ever flown a foreign airline in the domestic market? No, because they are banned from competing to protect the American airline industry. There’s a reason these treaties are 4,000 pages long, everyone has to have their exemptions and op-outs. “Free trade” is a massive bait and switch.

64 Jason Bayz April 21, 2017 at 3:43 pm

And, just to clarify, there is no “free trade agreement” with China. But one could be forgiven for thinking there is, the way the economists and the media portray it.

65 Bob April 21, 2017 at 6:42 pm

I agree with you, although I don’t think that’s exactly what the comment I was originally replying to was getting at.

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