NewsWorldChina declares war on Hollywood, stop Disney-Marvel movies

China declares war on Hollywood, stop Disney-Marvel movies

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Beijing has declared war on Hollywood. Last year, the Chinese authorities blocked the theatrical release of all four films produced by Disney-Marvel. A sign, according to observers, of the leeway that China intends to place on the penetration of its market by the US majors. But, at the origin of this choice, there would not be the wider political and commercial tensions with Washington, but the idea of ​​transforming the national film industry into a means to guide the masses and pursue the political objectives of the regime. The Chinese one, Rebecca Davis, China correspondent for Variety, explains to Axios, “is a real departure from the global entertainment industry”. Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst at Comscore, underlines instead that “the pandemic has put China in a better position to control theatrical releases” on its territory. Despite Disney’s efforts to please the Beijing authorities, its highest grossing, all Marvel titles, have not been cleared. At the base of the decisions, officially, there would have been disputes relating to the way in which some characters were represented, or other problems related to comments made by the directors or actors of the films. It was, explains Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice pro, of “political” choices, which prevented the Disney-Marvel films from accessing the rich Chinese market, on which they would have a “very positive impact”. The stop in Beijing, however, did not only concern Marvel films. According to Variety, the market share of US films in China has shrunk overall from 46% in 2020 to 39% in 2021. This, while the market share of Chinese films increased. Of all foreign films screened in Chinese cinemas last year, only 28% were newly released films, the rest were previously produced films. As Aynne Kokas, a communications lecturer at the University of Virginia, explains to Axios, Beijing’s leadership has set the goal of making China a “strong film powerhouse” by 2035. Meanwhile, China in both 2020 and in 2021 has overtaken the US for tickets sold in cinemas. A result largely due to nationally produced films, compared to about 34 foreign films that each year get the green light from Chinese censorship. The huge Chinese market also allows domestically produced films not to necessarily aim for a global audience to get big box office hits. It is enough for Chinese films to be successful on the domestic market, explains Dergarabedian. According to an analysis carried out by Axios, of the 200 highest box office takings in China last year, 44 were domestic films, 80 were produced in North America and 76 from other parts of the world. The 44 Chinese films also achieved low grosses outside the national borders. According to Davis, the Chinese project to create a strong national film industry is not only aimed at countering the US cultural ‘soft power’, of which Hollywood is a powerful vehicle, but also serves to convey the messages of the Communist Party to the masses. An example above all, the great success in 2021 of the Chinese film ‘Battle for Lake Changjin’, one of the highest grossing in the history of cinema in China, a real war propaganda film, which magnifies the fight of the Chinese army against the USA during the Korean War. Another recently released film, ‘Embrace Again’, employs some of China’s most popular stars to spread Beijing’s narrative of the pandemic, completely ignoring the government’s mistakes in the early stages of the virus spread nationwide and globally. The film was a blockbuster during the end-of-year holidays. However, despite the regime’s efforts, Chinese public interest in Hollywood movies has not waned, as the prevailing online piracy demonstrates. With the spread of streaming services, the US film industry is less dependent on the traditional business model, based on the sale of tickets at the box office, even if companies like Netflix are prevented from entering the Chinese market. But, Dergarabedian points out, the Chinese market “can still make a difference” in terms of success or failure for a film’s global ticket sales.

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