The Chinese Connection:
China’s Positive and Negative Influence on Hollywood
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher and Dr. Tom Synder, Editor
Like something out of a delusional Hillary Clinton nightmare about Russian collusion, concern has been growing in recent years on the influence of overseas actors on Hollywood and the American film industry, especially the influence of China.
Last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America’s Annual Report in March, 71% of the $41.1 billion global box office came from overseas. Of that $29.2 billion, $9 billion, nearly 31%, came from China. The other Top 10 overseas markets included Japan with $2 billion in revenue, followed by Britain with $1.7 billion, South Korea and France with $1.6 billion, India with $1.5 billion, Germany with $1 billion, and Mexico, Russia and Australia with $0.9 billion each.
Of course, these figures say nothing about the influence China may have on helping to finance Hollywood movies and the entertainment industry in the United States. It also says nothing on the financing the industry may receive from wealthy people in places like the Muslim country of Saudi Arabia, who have many overseas investments, including investments in Hollywood.
Like Saudi Arabia, however, China has both positive and negative influences on the content of Hollywood movies, especially the huge blockbusters that remain the main money-maker of the international film business.
First of all, countries like China and India require their theatrical movies to eliminate graphic sexual content, explicit nudity and extreme violence. This is clearly a good thing since it protects the hearts and minds of vulnerable children who watch movies as well as fits the biblical worldview that MOVIEGUIDE® applies in its analysis of specific movies and the entertainment industry as a whole.
However, China also makes demands concerning the spiritual and political content of movies.
For example, Chinese authorities don’t like movies about ghosts, movies with overt evangelical content promoting Christianity, and movies that make China look bad.
Thus, in blockbuster movies like THE MARTIAN and GRAVITY, Chinese astronauts saved an American astronaut. Also, Marvel’s recent superhero movies changed Doctor Strange’s mentor from a Tibetan Buddhist monk to a Buddhist monk from Ireland. The remake of the anti-communist movie RED DAWN changed the invading army from Chinese to North Korean. Finally, Disney hired two famous Chinese actors to play characters in its blockbuster movie ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.
Recent reports from China and the American film industry, however, indicate that China may be pulling away from Hollywood. Some have blamed that development on the trade conflicts between China and the United States prompted by President Trump’s complaints about the trade imbalance between China and the U.S. Others have blamed it on Chinese President Xi’s crackdowns against Western influences in his country.
Despite this news, MOVIEGUIDE® notes that, according to the trade paper VARIETY, Sony’s new SPIDER-MAN movie, FAR FROM HOME, has a prime June 28 spot in China. Also, China has accepted major slots for the animated movies TOY STORY 4 and THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2. In addition, Disney’s live-action version of ALADDIN and Warner Bros.’s new GODZILLA movie recently did pretty well in China, though GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS wasn’t quite the international hit promised.
So, despite what you might have read or heard from various pundits in the “Twitterverse” or on the Internet, there’s no reason to hit the panic button when it comes to the influence, good or bad, that China might have on the American movie industry, or the influence of any other country for that matter.
Christians should be just as concerned, if not more concerned, about the influence of the spiritual, moral and ideological content (including the depiction of sex and violence) in movies and entertainment, and how such content might shape the hearts and minds of their children and grandchildren.
Viewed in that light, the influence of Chinese communism and Chinese imperialism on movies and entertainment is just one concern among many.