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“The Devil and Daniel Webster,” a short story about a man who makes a deal with the devil, remains timeless for an obvious reason. You don’t sell your soul for nothing.
Hollywood sold its creative soul to China several years ago. The industry removed anything remotely critical of the country from its films, added fawning scenes to placate Chinese censors and even shot a blockbuster film near Muslim concentration camps. The industry bowed down to the Communist regime because it offered thousands of movie theaters to show American movies.
Daniel Webster eventually paid the price for his devilish deal. So, too, is Hollywood.
China no longer delivers huge box office returns for American imports. “Barbie” may be shattering box office predictions stateside, but the movie opened in sixth place in China. “Little Mermaid,” which has earned a respectable $300 million in U.S., bombed in Chinese theaters.
The Wall Street Journal points to one key reason that will sound familiar to Red State America.
Chinese audiences, we’re learning, are sick of Hollywood’s woke revolution and reliance on burned-out franchises.
“Hollywood movies are more and more nonsense nowadays,” Fang, 60 years old, said in the lobby of a Shanghai movie theater this week. “Superheroes like Spider-Man and Captain America are so superficial, I won’t even watch them in IMAX 3-D.”
Another movie goer, a 40-something freelancer, expounded on that concern, noting the forced diversity measures seen across Hollywood imports.
“‘The Little Mermaid’ is too focused on political correctness … I go to the cinema for entertainment, not to be instilled with certain values.”
How do you say, “get woke go broke” in Mandarin?
The numbers tell an ugly, unavoidable story. The pandemic hurt movie-going across the globe, but U.S. audiences have partially come back to theaters over the last year-plus thanks to hits like “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” It’s not the same for American movies in China.
Total box-office sales for U.S. films in China hit $592 million in the first six months of the year, down from $1.9 billion grossed in the first half of 2019, according to Artisan Gateway, the year before Covid-19 restrictions crippled moviegoing.Wall Street Journal
What else is killing American movies in China?
Chinese studios have upped their game, considerably, over the past decade. Homegrown movies now look and sound as slick as their U.S. counterparts. That leaves Chinese citizens more than happy to watch locally-produced movies that speak to their values and concerns.
It’s hard to blame them.
The book “Red Carpet” by Erich Schwartzel, co-author of the WSJ article, detailed how Chinese studios invited American filmmakers to teach them the ways of their craft. Those lessons apparently stuck.
The other irony?
Chinese filmmakers are encouraged to shoot patriotic films extolling their homeland’s virtues (and smiting America whenever possible). American directors, in contrast, rarely promote their country’s values or show the wonder of capitalism. The recent “Air” from Ben Affleck proved a stirring exception.
Some of China’s biggest box office hits have been unabashedly pro-China in tone and content, like “The Battle at Lake Changjin 2,” a sequel to the country’s biggest hit. The films focus on Chinese soldiers fighting the U.S. during the Korean war.
U.S. film companies once surrendered to China on the pop culture front, hoping to keep the money flowing. Now, they’ve sold their soul and have little in return.