Why Chinese Filmgoers Don’t Buy Hollywood’s Values Anymore

Well-worn Western tropes of individualism and liberalism fail to resonate with audiences embracing a different form of national pride.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Okoye (Danai Gurira), T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba)..Photo: Matt Kennedy..©Marvel Studios 2018

Back in February, China’s film industry set a world record for monthly sales in a single market, chalking up 10.1 billion yuan ($1.6 billion). Since then, it has continued its momentum, breaking the world record for quarterly sales in a single market with 20.2 billion yuan ($3.2 billion) — a figure that exceeded the previous record of $3 billion set by the North American market in the second quarter of 2015. But while China is marching toward becoming the world’s biggest box office, the commercial model that it once sought to emulate — Hollywood — is losing its dominance in the Chinese market.

When China set the new monthly record, its cinemas were full of homemade movies. In March, major Hollywood titles like “Black Panther,” “The Shape of Water,” “Tomb Raider,” “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” and “Ready Player One” all premiered in the country. In the absence of any major domestic releases, the monthly sales of 51.6 billion yuan were only about half of February’s figure.

As early as 2015, moviemakers noticed that Chinese filmgoers preferred domestic films to Hollywood ones. That year, only three Hollywood blockbusters — “Furious 7,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and “Jurassic World” — made it into the top 10 most-watched movies in China. Since then, audiences’ predilections for homegrown movies have only become more obvious.

Source: Ent Group. By Liu Chang, Sixth Tone.

Some commentators attribute the country’s preference for domestic films to industry manipulation by the Chinese government, which protects the domestic movie business through a variety of novel policies, including recurring blackouts of imported movies during a “domestic film protection month,” strict quotas on imported films, premieres that coincide with those of hyped-up homegrown blockbusters, and restrictions on the marketing campaigns of major Hollywood titles. But these claims are overblown. Read the full article here.


This is original content by Sixth Tone and has been republished with permission.