Is China The Future Of Blockbuster Cinema?

Christian Bale and Morgan Freeman in China, The Dark Knight Rises

By Mark Hodge (doddleNEWS)

While summer 2014 is one of the worst box offices in recent memory, it seems that Hollywood is starting to look East in its quest for bigger commercial returns.

That’s right, while North American box office earnings are down 20% from last year, China’s box office was up 33% in the first quarter alone.

And this is a trend that not only looks set to continue, but it’s something that evidently studios have anticipated.

Indeed the number of blockbusters filmed in China and Hong Kong in recent years has steadily increased.

Even the least observant moviegoer will have spotted both Batman and James Bond having their story lines tweaked to include the world’s fastest growing movie marketplace.

In fact, Transformers: Age of Extinction was not only filmed in China, but the sequel grossed $300 million there alone.

Josh Brown, CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management, explains that major Hollywood studios are already tailoring entire blockbusters around the Asian market.

He said (via Yahoo Finance): “American audiences haven’t really caught on yet, or don’t seem to mind. Iron Man 3 was essentially made for the Chinese audience, and it worked. They even went so far as to change the villain from being of Asian descent, to being kind of like a non-threatening drunken British actor, and that’s a huge departure from the source material in Marvel comics.”

Speaking about the latest Transformers film, he added: “[Paramount] didn’t even bother having a premiere here, they did the thing in China.

“It’s a massive audience, [the Chinese] get really excited about going to the movies. They’re sleeping in the streets for Spider-Man there, it’s a totally different ballgame.”

One of the most interesting cases of studios changing a film to suit the Chinese market was the remake of Red Dawn. The film had to be digitally altered in post-production, changing the antagonist from China to global laughing stock North Korea. Evidently, producers realized that depicting China as an evil empire invading the U.S. wouldn’t necessarily be good for business.

And Brown admits that with Western economies still experiencing slow growth, following a worldwide recession, the commercial potential of China is extremely appealing to studios.

He said: “Hollywood looks at this and says, ‘wow, what if there were a place that has four times as many people [than the U.S.], where movies were still a novelty, and we could charge a premium price in the cities?’”

Source: Yahoo Finance

About Mark Hodge

Mark Hodge is a journalist and copywriter from Glasgow, Scotland. As well as being involved in film festivals in the UK, Mark has also worked as a sports reporter covering soccer matches in his home country. In fact, he even attended the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, helping to document the cultural impact of the event on the city. He also writes for The Huffington Post covering topics such as film, sports and politics.