In 2020, China rose to become the largest global box office market for the first time, a feat it is likely to repeat in 2021. This is clearly a point of pride, as this week the leaders of China’s film industry outlined a five-year plan detailing steps that will allow it to maintain its top spot in the global theatrical market. The plan sets out the goals of expanding its exhibition footprint to more than 100,000 screens and having domestic releases produce more than 55% of its total box office, with over 50 Chinese-produced films grossing in excess of $15M. China has also set its sights on increasing its visibility at premiere international films festivals such as Cannes. These goals would seem to be within reach, as the exhibition continues to build new cinemas at a rapid pace and domestic titles such as THE BATTLE OF LAKE CHANGJIN and HI, MOM have been huge box office successes, each grossing more than $800M.
This China-first policy is bad news for Hollywood studios, which have come to rely on the Chinese market for a key slice of their profits. This year, film regulators have cited “cultural” reasons for blocking a series of major Hollywood releases from playing in Chinese theatres. These include Disney/Marvel’s SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, ETERNALS, and Warner Bros.’ SPACE JAM 2: A NEW LEGACY. Hollywood is adjusting to the fact that China is becoming a less reliable partner, as the nation pursues the goal of “adhering to the (Communist) Party’s total leadership over film work.”