LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — While the trade deficit between China and the United States has become a hot button in the era of Trump, some exports to China have increasingly become the lifeblood of some industries in the entertainment sector.
Chinese moviegoers have become a key source of revenue for Hollywood studios and international audiences reached a record high of $40.6 billion in 2017, the Motion Picture Association of America said Wednesday in its annual report.
The growing strength of international markets comes at a key time for major studios as attendance at domestic theaters reached its lowest point in 22 years.
International sales grew by 7% in foreign markets in 2007, driven largely by growth in China, which generated $7.9 billion in ticket sales in 2017, the MPAA said.
Compare that to the $11.1 billion generated in the U.S. and Canada in the same period, which is down by 2% from the year before. As well, if you remove the 4% price increase in average ticket prices in domestic theaters, the decline would have been even sharper.
“The Chinese film market is going to be the largest film market in short order,” said Charles H. Rivkin, who took over as MPAA chairman in January, told the Associated Press. “They’re building about 25 screens a day.”
Moreover, American films face significant obstacles in China, which only allows 34 foreign films to be screened per year. As well, cultural and political concerns over the content of American media affect film-making.
Movies such as Disney-Marvel’s “Dr. Strange” which included Tibetan character in North American plays, instead featured Tilda Swinton playing a Celtic mystic in the Chinese version of the film.
Other issues that have tripped up films with Chinese censors include everything from time travel, one-night stands, and excessive displays of decolletage. In August, Chinese media censors warned local news outlets to avoid expressing admiration for “Western lifestyles” which is pretty much Hollywood’s bread and butter.
This stringent social control may have an impact on domestic entertainment as well, as movie execs streamline their products to make it an easy fit into the lucrative Chinese market. Concerns over this soft censorship have even made their way to Capitol Hill, where a bi-partisan group of 18 legislators lawmakers called for greater scrutiny of Chinese influence and investments in the entertainment sphere. In a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the legislators expressed “growing concerns about China’s efforts to censor topics and exert propaganda controls on American media.”