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Hollywood sees challenges to growth in Chinese market

Publication Date : 05-06-2014


Real life is rarely what you see in movies, but Hollywood's expanding emphasis on foreign markets is giving its audience a more accurate glimpse into the world.

As the second largest box-office market, after the United States, China has been capturing attention of the biggest moviemakers in the business. Chinese actress Fan Bingbing's role in X-Men: Days of Future Past, although only one line long, highlights a changing dynamic in the movie industry.

Magic Storm Entertainment CEO Eric Mika says observing the Chinese industry for the past 15 years has allowed him to see the change firsthand.

"Hollywood is making a sincere effort to entice the Chinese audiences to see their films by scripting Chinese actors in the films and working with Chinese script writers," Mika says.

There is money to be made in captivating Chinese viewers. The international box office has increased 33 per cent over the past five years to US$25 billion in 2013, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. China contributed $3.6 billion to the record-breaking year.

According to the MPAA, nearly 70 per cent of Hollywood's annual revenue from the box office now comes from international markets. X-Men, for example, has so far grossed about $340 million, of which foreign sales account for more than half. China accounts for nearly $40 million of the total, more than double the amount of any other foreign country.

Mika says box office returns is the main benefit to Hollywood targeting China, as well as the drastic expansion of cinemas throughout the country. In 2013, about 12 new cinema screens were added per day in China.

Besides monetarily, Mika says: "Hollywood benefits in exposing films that may inspire new and young Chinese filmmakers."

Many Chinese companies have turned to Hollywood in the past few years realising the opportunities it has to offer. However, legal and financial complexities have put a strain on the relationship, says Mika.

"Many (companies) found out quickly that the Hollywood system is very different than in China," he says. "So much of the business is based primarily on creative concept, which rapidly turns into business rules and regulation, and that is where the hesitation is observed."

Some critics argue that catering to a Chinese crowd will diminish the quality of movies because it requires simpler plots and universal, formulaic themes. Others contend that cultural elements added unnaturally into a movie could do more harm than good if incomplete or inaccurate.

"The worldwide audience today is smart and understands that a film is a film, fiction and nonfiction, and liberties are taken by filmmakers," Mika says.

Mika says he predicts only a small number of Chinese filmmakers and investors will take to Hollywood to work on global movies, but he says he expects a boom in Chinese moviemaking.

"To me what is important is that China develops a global platform and distribution network that gets into cinemas and film festivals around the world," he says. "Getting an international audience interested in Chinese films is important."

Kurt Nagl contributed to this story.


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