According to Comscore, the American media analytics company, China’s box office overtook the United States’, garnering movie companies about 27% more revenue than the US – $3.1 billion compared to $2.25 billion.
Of course, since both countries experience the effects of the coronavirus, these figures significantly shrunk compared to last year’s, with the States taking heavier losses regarding moviegoers, almost 80% while this figured remained under the global average of 71,3 in China by 4% (66,3%).
The reasons could be manifold; the different stages of the pandemic and these countries are experiencing, the prohibitive measures their governments took, different cultural responses and so on.
What this whole situation really signifies is the underlying trend of China’s growing influence on the global movie market. As a result, Hollywood has to adapt to the changing situations, which in many cases involve adapting the movies themselves to fit both the Asian taste and to circumvent the censorship of the Communist regime, to the degree where not only minor details but key elements of the narrative might have to be altered.
The readers might remember the headlines about Top Gun: Maverick – where they removed the flag of Taiwan from the main character’s jacket – or the case of Doctor Strange, where the lead actress’s Tibetan background was purposefully omitted.
Even more alarming is the fact, that if the People Republic’s influence grows even stronger, some movies, which would prove to be box office bombs there – like Wonder Woman 1984 last year – would be financially unfeasible to make without the expected return.
Of course, there is always the option of tailoring one – or some – specific title(s) to the Chinese market. Disney tried their hands in this approach with the remake of Mulan, with controversial consequences; lack of interest because of the fallout from the original’s less-than-warm reception, the misunderstanding of the audience’s cultural heritage and the backlash from the American journalists (for example, for thanking the PRC’s government despite the recently resurfaced human rights abuses).
At the same time, other movies from the Marvel and the Disney franchises, along with the Fast & Furious movie series enjoy the same amount of widespread positive reception in the country, as in the West.
Further complications may arise from the domestic appeal of China’s very own blockbusters. The Eight Hundred, for example grossed more the a $100 million in it’s opening weekend, not to mention the further $400 million revenue internationally.
China’s film authorities have denied a release to Disney’s Winnie the Pooh film, Christopher Robin, in 2018. In that time there was no reason has been given for the decision, but it’s believed to be part of a nationwide clampdown on references to the beloved children’s character.
We cannot be sure of what the future holds; it’s likely though, that in order to get a better picture, we probably have to wait until the end of the pandemic. Even if the United States manages to reclaim its top place as the number one movie market, China will continue to be the close second. A growing, and ever so influential power that has the ability to shape the landscape of high budget films.