Over the past 18 months, Hollywood has struggled to maintain its traditional strength in the Chinese theatrical market. This is a point of particular frustration for Hollywood studios since during that time, China has become the leading market for moviegoing, while the U.S. and other global markets have suffered under the impact of COVID-19.
This year’s top performers are led by two local productions, “Hi, Mom” which took in $822 million followed by “Detective Chinatown 3” with $686 million. The Chinese government continues to support the construction of new cinemas, which already add up to more than 70,000 screens. Indications are that China will increasingly be looking inward for growth in its movies, with Hollywood driven to the margins by strict government control of the release calendar and a growing divide between the countries. This year, a series of major U.S. productions have become mired in controversy within China. The local press and discussion on social media has panned Disney’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” as being racist in its character depictions. Prospects for “Space Jam: A New Legacy” were dimmed after the NBA’s Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey posted tweets that disparaged the Chinese government for its handling of the tense political situation in Hong Kong. A potential blackout is looming for the upcoming release of Disney/Marvel’s “The Eternals” over searing comments in the past from director Chloe Zhao, who described China as a place that is “full of lies.”