Hollywood cinema, the soul and concentrate of American “soft power”, does it still have a future in the Middle Kingdom? It is already violently clashing with Chinese interests in the seventh art. The year 2020, marked by the pandemic and its procession of cinema closures around the world, has, for the first time, given world supremacy to Chinese cinema. Economically, the latter was ahead, in terms of box office revenue, its biggest rival with $ 3.1 billion (2.74 billion euros) made in China against $ 2.3 billion for the Americans. Because the American market has slipped by 80% compared to 2019 and its Chinese competitor “only” by 66.3%.
Beyond that, in China itself, Beijing is increasingly determined to reduce the number of Hollywood films shown in its territory while strengthening its own film industry. To better dilute the American influence. Since February 12, 2021, the date of the Chinese New Year, spectators have returned to theaters massively. “Between December 7, 2020 and December 7, 2021, revenues increased by 184% and admissions by 150% [à 1,1 milliard de places vendues contre 450 millions à la même période l’an dernier] », says Eric Marti, general manager of the Comscore design office.
Even if attendance has not yet reached the low water level of 2019, this very good recovery does not benefit American studios, because its share is becoming more and more limited. “There are only five American films in the top 30 this year, compared to 11 in 2019”, details Eric Marti. A huge shortfall for Hollywood, which has struggled in vain for years to obtain a larger quota of foreign films authorized for theatrical release in China. Beijing is camped on the very small number of 34 non-Chinese feature films, the revenue sharing of which is interesting for foreign producers. The Americans have so far managed, in this very constrained exercise, to get the lion’s share of this quota.
To win at major festivals
This year, Fast & Furious 9, by Justin Lin (Universal Pictures), comes in fifth at the box office, well ahead of Chinese films. Released in February, the Chinese comedy of a rare sentimentality Hi, Mom, by Jia Ling, brought together 120 million spectators. Detective Chinatown 3 grossed $ 51 million in revenue just the weekend of its release. The Battle at Lake Changjin, a nationalist film by Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark and Dante Lam, retracing an important episode in the Korean War which pitted the Chinese against the North Americans, in theaters since the beginning of October, has established itself as a historic success. He raked in $ 886 million in revenue in nine weeks. Landed on screens a month later, the last James Bond, To die can wait, de Cary Joji Fukunaga, looks poor with less than $ 65 million in revenue.
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