entertainment industry is growing, and Hollywood is eager to take part in
it. Statistics show that in four years
China’s film audience will exceed that of the United States (McKinsey and Co.). It is not easy for Hollywood films to enter
the Chinese market due to the strict censorship laws enforced in China. One
major obstacle film producers must face is approval from the Chinese Film
Bureau, an agency from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio,
Film, and Television (SAPPRFT).
Hollywood’s fear of censorship “sits at the heart of the various
strategies around co-production, acquisition, and content management”
(Kalathil). There are three ways for
Hollywood films to screen in a Chinese theater: revenue sharing films (giving
twenty-five percent of the box office to a foreign company), flat fee movies
(expensive and an unpopular choice) or co-producing with a Chinese company
(O’Connor). The fact that the path to
film distribution is long and arduous, many American film companies choose to
co-produce their films to minimize costs.
One prominent example of co-production is the film, The Great Wall. This $150 million film starred both Chinese
actors and American actor, Matt Damon.
Dream Works Animation established Oriental DreamWorks in Shanghai to
produce Chinese branded films. Disney
immediately followed DreamWorks’ example by creating a healthy relationship
with the Chinese Ministry of Culture.
Also, some Hollywood films produce Chinese-friendly plots to please
SAPPRT. The Chinese market has
prohibited subjects such as homosexuality and “inter-ethnic conflicts” (Ying)
in their films. Aynne Kokas emphasizes
that “No Hollywood producer that wants to take advantage of the Chinese market
would at this point include a film that includes anything about Taiwan, about
Tibet, about Tiananmen.” For example,
the film Karate Kid (featuring Jackie Chan and Jayden Smith) depicts an African
American kid against Chinese bullies.
American directors altered the film so much for the Chinese market, to
the point where the film shows a completely different plot. Apart from avoiding negative depictions of
China, some directors try to shed a positive light on the country. Some foreign films are made with the
intention to be screened for the Chinese market. This approach to production leads
screenwriters “to consider including Chinese elements, characters, location,
and themes when applicable” (Suzanne-Mayer).
The 2015 film, The Martian, directors added a subplot that depicted
China Nation Space Administration positively.
This approach to the film industry caused China to be called “the world