For years, Hollywood has found it quite difficult to break into the Chinese film industry. China has implemented such policies which continuously push for tight quotas on international films. But, why? According to Isabella Bennett, the Program Coordinator for International Institutions and Global Governance on Media Censorship in China, “The Chinese government has long tried to keep a tight rein on traditional and new media to prevent any challenges to its political authority.”
Nonetheless, when Hollywood films are shown in China, they have great success, but the caveat to this matter is that the Chinese simply want to see more of their own local success when it comes to the film industry. Whether it’s due to blackout periods, where new Hollywood films can’t be shown in Chinese theaters, or China stacking Hollywood films against each other, the Chinese play their cards right when it comes to enacting their policies to limit playability. But recently, Hollywood has seen China as a land of opportunity and is looking to cash in while partnering up with its film industry rather than fight their limitations.
In this year alone, the Chinese film industry has grown tremendously. Ticket sales for local Chinese films have increased 144% to a gross of $1.12 billion, while international films in China have decreased 21% to $670 million despite the relaxed quotas. The argument has been whether or not China is finally doing something right or is Hollywood making mistakes? The answer is both.
In order for Hollywood to convince China to showcase more of their films, they need to start working together. They can take a hint from Village Roadshow, the Australian media company who has partnered with China in one of its biggest local films, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demon. To date, Some American studios have already gotten the right idea and started partnering with Chinese film companies. 21st Century Fox has partnered with Bona Film Group, while DreamWorks Animation has invested in Oriental DreamWorks. Working partnerships will allow for Hollywood and American Studios to have greater access to the growth that China has seen recently.
China’s success in the film industry didn’t happen overnight. Taking Hollywood tactics into consideration, Chinese filmmakers have continued to be fascinated by Hollywood films and have translated their inspiration filming different genres such as horror, romantic comedies; rather than sticking to their typical historical movie themes of the past. In addition, they have also moved their attention from big cities like Beijing and Shanghai to smaller more localized areas. With a more localized audience base in small cities, distributors are able to target a younger generation, the same generation that is engrossed in Hollywood movies. Now, the younger audience doesn’t have to wait for the next big Hollywood hit, they are happy to be watching their own indigenous films. All in all, three key elements have contributed to the success of these films which include content, exhibition, and marketing.
So, what does all of this local Chinese success mean for Hollywood? Positive things. If Chinese films do well, there will be less restrictions on international films in the future. What China mainly wants is for their localized films to see domestic success. With this, the Chinese government that controls policies within the film industry will be more likely to ease up even more on their quotas for what international films will make it to the big screen in China. Yet, like many other companies have realized, it might be best to work together. There’s far more opportunities for both Hollywood and China if they come together as one and move forward.