Back in 2012, China overtook Japan to become the second biggest box office market in the world. And recent predictions estimate that 2017 would see it eclipse the US to be the biggest box office market in the world.
Despite an unanticipated dip at the end of 2016, movie revenue in the Middle Kingdom has been almost doubling year on year since 2009. The country is building an average of 26 new movie screens every day for a current total of over 41,000 – more than all of North America combined.
After such success, China doesn't just want to enjoy Hollywood, it wants to become the new Hollywood, making both Chinese and English-language films with a long term view to export, much like Hollywood does today (plenty of movies that bomb in their native US market can be blockbusters from their revenue in China alone).
The first strong signal about the intentions of the Chinese government for its native industry is the strict quota on foreign films admitted to Chinese theatres. The number (34 per year) was relaxed only slightly after the unexpected downturn. But even more prescient is the government's effective hobbling of Chinese businesses' interests in Hollywood. Chinese companies have spent several years buying into, partnering with or taking over names at every stage of the Hollywood system from studios to movie theatre chains. Now the government's National Development and Reform Commission has announced new categories of investment restrictions applying to Chinese companies, and films and entertainment were both included, putting the brakes on the spending spree companies like Dalian Wanda and the Fosun Group have been enjoying in America.
But they're not alone in Hollywood. Wanda still owns the AMC theatre chain (as well as Australia's Hoyts cinemas) and production company Legendary (The Dark Knight and Jurassic World franchises), and Shanghai Film Group and Huahua Media has agreed to finance 30 per cent of the film slate of venerated studio Paramount. Co-productions with China are still manna from heaven for many film markets as they don't fall under the foreign film barrier, and the Australian film industry is an eager partner-in-waiting. Back in April, Screen Australia announced the eighth movie to get approval from officials (the fourth since 2015).
In addition, AusFilm have been hosting delegations of Chinese directors and production companies to showcase Australian locations and facilities through an annual event called The Australia-China Film Industry Exchange. Such efforts have resulted in high profile Chinese/Australian co-productions made here at home featuring international stars (like Bleeding Steel, which stars Jackie Chan and was filmed in Sydney), and agreements and partnerships show no signs of slowing down.
China, it seems, is set to conquer the entertainment world the way Hollywood did a century ago.
Written by By Drew Turney