In 2015, Hollywood experienced a slow growth of 1%. America’s filmmakers reacted by targeting China as a potential market for higher growth. However, a shift Chinese consumer taste toward domestic fantasy movies and the manipulation of Chinese government on promoting local films brought many difficulties for Hollywood producers.
According to Shanghai daily, the fantasy action adventure genre has become popular in China. Most of the movies are built on online novels that have a large and loyal fan base. The typical example is “Mojin: The lost legend” movie based on the online novel Ghost Blows Out the Light that is regard to the journey of a tomb explorer and his fiancé in an ancient tomb of Mongolian princess. With a production cost of $37 million, the movie generated over $200 million on its first release day, December 18, 2015 and soon became one of China’s top box office hits. Mojin also outperformed Hollywood movies to deliver a growth of 11 times of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”.
In January 2017, first release of TV series Eternal Love or Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms is based on a same title novel. The movie is about a love story between a goddess and a prince in three different lives. The movie brought 20 billion online views and ranked number one for several months because of the fantasy content and aesthetic background. Every new episode brought over 1 billion views. The production value was $42 million.
As a result, Chinese movies compete with Hollywood in both content and number of movies. An average of 15 new movie theaters are built in cities with population less than 1 million. To catch up with America with 40,000 movie screens, China has developed over 30,000 movie screens and will surpass America soon. In 2015, there are only three Hollywood movies – “Jurassic World”, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Fast and Furious 7” out of 10 highest-grossing movies in China.
Chinese government imposes strict regulations on censorship. Any contents about disrupting order in the society, opposing world peace, favoring democracy and against Chinese citizens, pornography…are cut or banned. The Chinese state is highly involved in the film production, promotion and post production censorship. In 1996, the movie Kundun financed by Disney was warned by Chinese government because of depicting brutal communism. Disney chairman had to fly to China to smooth the situation because of losing expansion opportunity to China in future (Su, 2016). In order for Hollywood to be more successful in the Chinese market, they must adapt to the shift in Chinese consumer behavior and abide to Chinese government regulations.