Typing Faster

September 8, 2010

Are Crouching Tigers, Hidden Dragons Taking Over Hollywood?

Filed under: Features, Future of TV — petertypingfaster @ 6:00 am

We all know that China’s become a force to be reckoned with when it comes to global economics. And it’s not just in the arena of cheap manufacturing, the world widgets and wig-wams, that China’s making strides. They’ve become a world leader in renewable energy technology. Who saw that coming?

But if there’s one area that China’s had trouble penetrating, at least in the English speaking world, it would be that of culture, and specifically film and television. Sure we’ll import the occasional martial arts or arthouse flick, but you could probably count the number of real blockbusters on one hand. For all intents and purposes China is still the Forbidden Kingdom when it comes to film and television, closed to all outsiders.

But that’s all starting to change. And change in a big way.

When Scarlett Johansson strode across the screen in “Iron Man 2,” she was wearing a form-fitting outfit made by Semir, a Chinese brand and an official sponsor of the blockbuster movie this spring.

That wasn’t the first example of Chinese firms getting in on the Hollywood product-placement game. In last year’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” a highway billboard featured another Chinese sportswear company, Metersbonwe.

“More and more Chinese brands would like to get their products placed” in Hollywood films, said Ben Ji, head of Angel Wings Entertainment and the man behind getting Semir clothes into “Iron Man 2.” His goal: to get a Chinese car in a James Bond film.

Product placement is just one example of China’s new love affair with Hollywood. Chinese production companies are looking to partner with Hollywood firms to make films and manage China’s growing number of theaters. Rumors persist that a Chinese company – spurred by the government, which wants to extend the country’s “soft power” into the cultural sphere – is on the prowl to buy a U.S. film studio.

Let us digest that for moment. China wants to buy a U.S. film studio. That would potentially be a huge influx of money into Hollywood, especially if the studio in question was (secretly) backed by the Chinese government.

But that’s still in the future, and in the present China and Hollywood are already doing some serious business together. We’ve already seen several high profile co-productions do well at the box office (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and The Karate Kid reboot). And there are several other high profile projects on the horizon.

In what would be the biggest – meaning costliest – co-produced movie, the U.S. company Hollywood MovieWorks has teamed with Beijing entrepreneur Sheng Boyu, 30, to make “Double Lives,” a film about a modern-day treasure hunt for two ancient Chinese swords. The film will star Pierce Brosnan and will be directed by Rob Cohen of “The Mummy,” who first became enamored with China when he directed “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.”

“Double Lives” has a $100 million budget, and Sheng said the Chinese side and Hollywood will approach it as equals.

“Our ratio is 50-50,” said Sheng, looking the part of a Hollywood producer in black suit, open-neck black shirt and black Gucci loafers. “My cooperation with Hollywood is an equal cooperation. I think it’s a trend that future filmmakers will cooperate and make more co-produced films, and Chinese audiences will enjoy the best of both Chinese and American filmmaking.”

China’s interest in teaming up with Hollywood is slightly murky (soft power? a bigger stage?), Hollywood’s reasons are simple, simple, simple. It all comes down to money. China offers great production incentives combined with a large cheap, experienced labor pool. Then there are the box office considerations.

China, the fastest-growing film market in the world. According to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, China’s box office receipts totaled $780 million in the first half of this year – an 80 percent increase over those from the first half of 2009, with much of that attributed to the colossal success of “Avatar” here. The 2009 box office receipts were up more than 40 percent over those of 2008.

Ji said that as more newly affluent Chinese go to movies – instead of watching DVDs at home – the number of movie houses being built is soaring. “Two new screens per day – that’s crazy!” he said. Foreign companies are allowed to build cinemas in China but not manage them directly, Ji said, adding that he is confident the rule will be relaxed next year.

Ji predicted that China might also relax rules that allow just 20 foreign films a year. An increase in the quota could give further incentive for Hollywood producers to make films that appeal to Chinese audiences.

Co-produced movies do not count as “foreign” films under the quota. Filming and hiring local workers is much cheaper in China than in many other countries.

Gerbrandt said that U.S. box office admissions have been stagnant in recent years but that increased ticket prices have helped the industry grow. “Hollywood must open new markets to keep growing, and China and India are obviously the largest,” he wrote in an e-mail.

So what does all this mean for the future? Who knows, but it’s probably a good idea for all of us to start brushing up on our Mandarin…

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1 Comment »

  1. Wow. This is a grim reality. Who can control the balance.

    =======================
    “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” -Don Vito Corleone, Godfather (1972)
    Watch movies online for free here:Movies Online

    Comment by emmcninch47 — September 9, 2010 @ 6:18 pm


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