As Hollywood continues its courtship of China, it can learn all about cultural differences and censorship from the Hong Kong film-makers who went there first
China is the future – in cinema terms at least. As Hollywood expansionist strategy makes clear, most film-industry insiders believe that China is where the money is, and will be. Despite a recent dip in takings, the Chinese box office is expected to outgross the US’s in 2017 for the first time: projections suggest that Chinese cinemas will earn $10.4bn, as opposed to $10.2bn in the US. In February, the huge totals for the Stephen Chow film The Mermaid helped China’s monthly gross – $1.05bn – surpass that of all of North America (including Canada), which was $790m for the same period.
China is moving towards Hollywood, too. In an effort spearheaded by billionaire Wang Jianlin, the Dalian Wanda Group has been investing in anything that is for sale in Tinseltown, including Batman producers Legendary Entertainment and the cinema chain AMC, and is currently angling to acquire Paramount. Meanwhile, Hollywood increasingly has to comply with China’s written and unwritten regulations, and make countless compromises, to produce audience-pleasing blockbusters that satisfy the censors. And in order to bypass the quota that China sets for foreign movies (34 a year), US studios have started to make co-productions with Chinese ones – adapting further to China’s requests, censorship and regulations in order to do so.