Three years ago Looper – a rather good film – became the first Hollywood film to make more money in its opening weekend in China than it did in America. This feat, once rare, has now become the norm. China’s box office takings now rival those in America for many of the largest films.
The godawful Furious 7 made $390 million in China, $40 million more than in America. This marks the second year in a row where the top grossing film in China made more there than in America.
Last year Transformers: Age of Extinction – dreadful films where hunks of steel are involved in violent set pieces are all the rage in the People’s Republic – made $320 million, almost $80 million more than in America.
I thought I would check how rapidly the grosses of Hollywood films have risen recently. Quite astonishingly, they have increased by something like a factor of ten in the last decade.
In 2007, the top grossing film was Transformers, which pulled in $37 million. This is one tenth of what Furious 7 has made. Furthermore, two other films, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World – tiresome sequels, both – have made more than $200 million.
The consequences of all of this are complex. Depending on your tastes two things might happen. China might open up more as a result of watching Hollywood films.
But if you are pessimistic, then you can only conclude that the opposite might happen. Hollywood will never make the Chinese equivalent of Schindler’s List, even if it wanted to. No major studio will consider making an honest film about the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution, out of the fear that China will block the release of all of that studio’s other films in China.