No one knows who’ll come out ahead in President Trump’s trade spat with China.
China is about to become the world’s biggest film market
But the US might already be losing in a culture war – quietly and largely in the dark.
China is able to overtake the US as the world’s biggest film market, says the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
Global cinema box office sales reached a record high of $40.6 billion in 2017, says the MPAA’s latest annual report.
But US and Canadian cinema attendance fell to a 22-year low, with sales totaling $11.1 billion. That’s down 2% on 2016.
Who made up the shortfall? China.
The nation racked up $7.9 billion in ticket sales last year, leading to a 7% increase in overseas box office takings for American films.
“The Chinese film market is going to be the largest film market in short order,” MPAA chairman and former US assistant secretary of state Charles Rivkin told the Associated Press. “They’re building about 25 screens a day.”
China’s number of cinema screens passed that of the US in 2016, and the number is projected to reach 80,000 – twice the number of American screens – by 2021.
Playing the hits
In the first quarter of 2018, the Chinese movie market has already overtaken that of North America. Big-ticket productions including Ready Player One, Pacific Rim: Uprising and Tomb Raider all opened bigger in China than stateside.
That’s despite severe restrictions on the number of foreign films that China lets into its cinemas: a quota of just 34 foreign films per year.
However, movies co-produced with Chinese companies are exempt from the restriction.
And increasingly, Chinese production companies are getting involved with Hollywood.
In 2016, China’s Dalian Wanda Group spent $3.5 billion to buy Hollywood production house Legendary Entertainment, makers of films such as Interstellar and Jurassic World. It also owns the AMC Theatres movie chain.
And Alibaba Pictures has helped to finance movies such as Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Star Trek Beyond. The company is owned by the Alibaba group, which also owns Inkstone.
That’s coming through in films, too – the China co-produced Transformers movies, for example, have heavily featured Chinese locations and product placement.
With a market that’s only growing, Chinese-made movies are increasingly looking like the future of entertainment.