The pandemic has certainly taken a toll on Hollywood. And the box office collection record last year in China was just half! As a sharp contrast to when China took the lion’s share from the US to emerge as the world’s No. 1 movie market.
It had revenue of close to 20.4 billion yuan ($3.2 billion). That was China alone when overseas films made up another 16% of the tickets’ rates. According to the data collected from Maoyan Entertainment, a local ticketing platform, in 2019, the percentage was 36.
What’s The Inside Story?
To get to the roots, China became the epicenter of the virus, and within months, the country became exemplary in containing the virus. So much, so movie theatres reopened in mid—July, and they did good business with the historical war drama The Eighth Hundred, the top-grossing movie last year. Picture this now – the US and Europe are still trying their best to fight against this pandemic. Lockdowns have made a return in several nations throughout the world, and the rate at which infections and deaths recur is alarming.
Naturally, no question about cinema halls opening their doors or Hollywood productions and releases happening arises here. Experts even stated how China surpassed all expectations after it came out of the deadly impact of the virus. As a result, more people showed a willingness to go out and to watch movies. It’s different though Chinese viewers somehow have lost the usual zest and appeal in Hollywood releases after blockbusters released were a handful only.
Why Releasing Hollywood Films In China Is So Difficult, Especially Now?
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the pandemic has “half-paralyzed Hollywood’s Studios.” So with the few films that the country releases in China, that’s just a small share in the overall box office revenue. For example, much-awaited films like Black Widow or Minions: The Rise of Gru have been pushed to the latter half of 2021.
The Chinese market is highly stern and keeps a tight leash on the number of imported movies, so releasing foreign films poses another big challenge. Even if it sounds unbelievable, the memorandum of the WTO in 2012 is the reason for this difference. It reduced the target for foreign titles annually imported into China from 34 to a mere 20!
Chinese Market Vs. Other Overseas Markets
Coming to Asia, the movie theatres are doing good business. This comes from the data collected from the CEO of Imax Corp. Over the weekends, a record number of people watched such films released in Imax cinemas. The December ticket sales in China reveal that the big-screen theatres of the company in China eyed a jump to almost 28%, as against the last year. Local movies constituted about 84% of the total box office revenue collected in China in 2020. And it is a noticeable increase from 64% in 2019.
Box Office Moho, the industry data tracker, showcased how Chinese studios produced 4 out of 10 biggest titles. This includes ‘The Eight Hundred– which adds evidence to the progress made.
But strangely, few of the most anticipated and big-budget films of Hollywood that would have certainly created a mark sadly flopped in China. And, of course, the public relations fiasco added fuel to the fire! Take the instance of the fantasy-action drama Mulan by Walt Disney. It caused numerous controversies involving Chinese culture, and the Xinjiang region where they shot the film was under scrutiny.
There, it was portrayed how Beijing was responsible for oppressing Uighurs, a minority group. In much the same way, Paul W.S. Anderson’s directorial venture that Sony Corp backed, Monster Hunter, also came to the limelight. This was after few Chinese viewers criticized a scene that had traces of racism.
We need to wait and watch to see if the industry will revive its market share in China. And it is still a big question. Because of this, a rally happened in few local film stocks. Since July 2020, Wanda Film Holding Co. advanced 28%, while Beijing Enlight Media Co. gained 6% and Huayi Brothers Media Corp., 11%. The first six months of 2020 proved beneficial for these three companies after shares skyrocketed marvelously. If Hollywood seriously wants to make a strong foothold in China, the directors have to think differently. That way, they can engage audiences not just in China but across the world.