Thursday, August 19, 2010

How China Will Change The Film Business

Reading this article in The Hollywood Reporter, I had a somewhat shocking realization.  As the market for film (and everything else) becomes truly global, there is no escaping the impact of other cultures on the content that is created in this country.

The article focuses on the Chinese government's resistance to creating a rating system for film.  The Chinese system is black and white -- either a film is appropriate for Chinese citizens or it is not going to be seen by anyone in China. Period.

Place this in the context of China having just surpassed Japan as the world's second largest economy, and China's #2 spot in revenues for the film, Avatar.  The implications are clear -- if you don't make a film that is going to pass muster with the Chinese government, then you are giving up your #2 market and a whole lot of potential revenue.

This may not matter to a lot of smaller films (although nobody wants to give up significant revenue potential), but on a more expensive film it can mean the difference between red ink and profits.  That means that studios and producers of larger pictures, whether they like it or not, need to look at a film through the eyes of Chinese censors.  They need to make a conscious decision whether they will forgo that market (and substantial revenue) in order to make controversial or edgy content.

So, while we have more freedom and choice than citizens of China, the views of the Chinese government are ultimately going to influence what we see and hear in our own country.  And as the Chinese market continues to grow, that influence will increase. Through the power of economics, their culture impacts our culture.

Interesting how that works, isn't it?

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