For some, Batman is a selfless hero fighting to keep evil from Gotham City. Yet, according to China’s Communist Party mouthpiece the Global Times, the Caped Crusader is a vehicle for American skulldugery, grouped in with the CIA, an American think tank and pro-democracy NGO, and said to be responsible for the current troubles in Hong Kong.
What really rattled the Global Times’ reporter was the way America “packages its ideology into its cultural products”, which Chinese “unconsciously consume”. This isn’t well aligned to Beijing’s “Chinese Dream” for the development of “comprehensive national power”. In saying that, there is an increasing trend of Hollywood China-fying its blockbusters to further appeal to the world’s second largest movie market.
China restricts the number of foreign movies shown at the cinema to 34 a year. Those few titles still accounted for 41% of total box office takings in the Mainland last year, down from 52% in 2012.
Yet with foreign restrictions to be lifted in 2017, the powerful China Film Bureau has “declared war” on Hollywood, with strategies such as urging cinemas to lessen screen times of the new Transformers movie. Even so, the movie opened with a record $90 million on its first weekend in China, and is expected to help push the share of foreign films back over 50% this year.
China’s box office has grown 35% annually since 2003 to ¥21.7 billion ($3.48 billion) in 2013. Hollywood’s share is nothing to sneeze at, but the real benefit to America, and other Western countries to a degree, is the corresponding soft power which drives sales in China of everything from wine and coffee, to Nike shoes, to overseas vacations. How the movie industry pans out has a bearing on many of us, so it is something we at China Skinny will be watching with interest.
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