I know what you’re thinking, and I assure you that there is no political agenda here. This is about the influence an audience, or consumer, has on the entertainment market. No, I am not wanting to get into the weeds of micro-economics or micro-sociological markets, this is the simple point that Hollywood will deliver movies that cater to the biggest audience. That means, the general audience of China is becoming more important than the general audience of North America, and specifically the U.S. and Canada. What is the cause of this? Too many people are willing to wait for a movie to hit their streaming services at no extra cost.
China And Hollywood At War
That’s right, the very thing giving you so much entertainment is killing it. As of right now, China has dedicated more money to the global Box Office than any other country this year. It’s not even close! Eight of the top twenty films of the year are Chinese made and they have declined to show several of the biggest films from Hollywood like Shang-Chi and Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
How does this connect to streaming? Almost every film has been released day-and-date at home and theaters or is available for streaming within 30 to 45 days. Americans, like others, have been dealing with the effects of COVID-19, but at this stage we see full indoor concerts and sporting events while theaters are having to switch to Pepsi to save costs! I have no idea if that old reason for selling Pepsi is still valid.
The One Touchy Subject
So, it isn’t just the virus, is it? Nope, and you all (myself sometimes) are lazy! The fact it IS available to watch at home often means you’ll wait. Why not, right? I mean, we have more important things going on in a pandemic with major logistical problems to boot. Also, there is a money factor. Many people can’t afford $50 for two people to go to the theaters, let alone a family of four. However, if we don’t spend money, they will no longer make movies for us.
“Oh, what do you mean by ‘for us’ Kyle? There are plenty of Chinese-Americans and Chinese-Canadians to appeal to, and people should be exposed to other cultures! China and Hollywood can coexist!” Yes, but how many Chinese movies are in your watch list? I watch a crap ton of Asian film, TV, and animation plus other non-English media too. What about your best friend, your parents, or your neighbor? How much Chinese media does the average North American consume? Like I said, they’ll stop making movies for us.
Quality Vs. Quantity
There is another possibility than losing all creative control to whatever is floating the Chinese Communist Party’s boat these days, and that is making less and making smaller movies. Imagine a Secret Wars movie on a $100 million budget. Yes, that is a real possibility if things keep going this way. I can already hear discussions about the technology of The Volume being used to shrink the need for on-location shoots and the computer controlled lights and cameras are replacing crew left and right. Want to go down that rabbit hole? Maybe another time when I ruin Microsoft’s Game Pass for you.
Many are saying that a smaller budget will force more story and character driven movies or that this could open up more chances for Indie films, but that’s lofty thinking in the bigger picture I described above. Also, don’t you want a $200m+ budget for DC’s next Justice League project or at least $150 million for Robotech? Also, are you ready for more split seasons of four to six episodes each? That’s another topic isn’t it? However, are you starting to see the bigger picture?
Streaming Isn’t All Bad
Some of you are screaming at me that it is the films available, but that’s not what the data says. People are consuming many of these movies in decent numbers at home. We do have to accept some good faith in streaming numbers being reported though. In places where streaming is easy, we see lower returns than in China. Even if streaming were not the main factor, China’s bans will force the same issue. However, streaming isn’t all bad. It does give people with kids and limited babysitter options a chance to stay up to date with films, and it does offer a lot of foreign and independent projects exposure in North America. If people would buy hard copies of movies, more merchandise, or SEE IT AT LEAST ONCE IN THEATERS before enjoying it at home, then maybe we can stop the bleeding.
What Do We Do?
The answer to this problem is easy, consume entertainment and pay for it. Yes, that’s hard. Yes you can be selective and not watch what you don’t like, but if you WANT to see it, then GO SEE IT! If you can safely, legally, and responsibly. I can see people wanting to get into the socio-political nuances in this situation, and one day I may. However, this is a simple market question: will you spend money for a big return or for a small return? If you can’t see it in theaters, then buy the Bluray or DVD. If you’ve given up the physical media ghost (a mistake for any real audio/visual-phile) then buy some merchandise. It’s a choice between China and Hollywood. Remember, China is the reason we got Venom: Let There Be Carnage!
I am an unashamed capatilist pig, but I have no money in this game and I only want to be told good stories. Stories that appeal to me, my friends, and all of you. I want the Chinese film market to thrive and I want to see great creators and actors bring us great stories from there. However I want to see the Horizon: Zero Dawn series and the X-Men: Messiah Complex movie more. Call me patriotic, but lets go Hollywood, USA! See… that didn’t really get political at all.
What do you think are the root causes of the rise of China’s film market influence? What challenges in the China and Hollywood war do you see?
Source: The Numbers