This is Part II of a series of posts I will be doing on China’s film industry, to help our readers kick off the Beijing International Film Festival, which I will be attending again this year. Yesterday I was email interviewed by Fox News regarding China’s film industry. The below is that interview:
Reporter: Last week Robert Downey Jr. made a trip to China to promote “Iron Man 3,” which was filmed partly there, gushing about the culture and exciting his many fans. Is it, or will it be, simply a given that the big stars go there to promote their films?
Alderson: It will be a given for films that are expected to attract a large Chinese audience, particularly films with Chinese co-stars, substantial Chinese locations or other significant Chinese production elements. Of course, “Iron Man 3” reportedly opted out of official co-production status (and the larger share of box office that goes with it) and many of us are wondering whether this should be taken as an indication that US-Sino co-productions are just too hard.
Reporter: Chinese box office is the second largest in world, but how large is it really and how much does it impact the movie industry as a whole?
Alderson: According to the Motion Picture Association, global box office totaled $34.7 billion in 2012. China weighed in at $2.7 billion, with Japan in second place at $2.4 billion. Though total North American box office still dominated at $10.8 billion, the impact is caused by the sheer rate of Chinese growth. China’s box office grew by 36% in 2012 but North America managed only 6% growth. So, China is where the growth is and, if that growth continues, China will eclipse North America as the largest box office market in the world. That is where both the opportunity and the threat lie.
Reporter: How much impact does China already have on which movies are made, and what they say (i.e. are they censored of any anti-China sentiment, themes, etc.)
Alderson: China, and China’s movie-goers, are now well and truly the buyers. So, the expectations of the Chinese authorities, and the tastes of the Chinese consumer, are having a tremendous impact on what is being produced and what is being exhibited. Though there are many examples of foreign films that are edited or even pulled to comply with Chinese requirements there is now in China an emerging preference for purely Chinese films. The looming question is whether films such as Lost In Thailand and Journey to the West, which really popped in China, presage a new era in which Hollywood films are marginalized here. Hollywood is understandably anxious about this.
Reporter: Are films now being written in advance, specifically tailored to suit the Chinese movie market or do you anticipate this will soon happen?
Alderson: Yes. It is happening now and it will continue to happen.
Reporter: Would the Hollywood studio movie industry be suffering much more if it weren’t for the Chinese box office, and does it have the potential to overtake America as the number one box office in the world?
Alderson: Yes, I think Hollywood would be suffering more without China and, as I say above, China certainly has that potential.