China no longer the ‘golden goose’ for movie studios: Hollywood producer

China has long been a major money-maker for the film industry – but as the country beefs up its censorship rules, could Hollywood’s complicated China relationship come to an end?

“China was the golden swan that Hollywood watched [in order] Film producer and author of the book “Feeding the Dragon” Chris Fenton told Yahoo Finance Live in an interview last week that some really big investment dollars, and the huge capital that it takes to build these big franchises, to back it up. (video above).

Fenton explained that the Hollywood-China relationship peaked between 2012-2016, but the Chinese market began to turn its back on the US around 2018. At that time, regulation of the country’s film management was entrusted to the propaganda department of the Communist Party.

Since then, under pressure from strained US-China diplomatic relations and changing audience tastes, relations have worsened

Censorship and sanctions have reached a fever pitch as a result of major titles including Disney’s “Black Widow,” “Eternal,” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” with Warner Bros. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” all denied a China release.

US blockbusters deny China release

Reasons for denial can include anything the government considers inappropriate, such as depictions of homosexuality or content that violates the country’s socialist and nationalist values.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” was rejected after producers refused to remove the Statue of Liberty from the film, while Chinese regulators called “Top Gun: Maverick” was immediately rejected. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s combat jacket. Beijing notoriously does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country.

After Chinese production company Tencent Pictures (TCEHY) signed on to co-finance the film in 2019, “Maverick” also ran into problems early in its production, eventually dropping out due to Blockbuster’s pro-US messaging. Gone.

Tencent reportedly thought the pro-American story would anger Communist Party officials.

“today, [China’s censorship] Probably the worst time I’ve ever seen in my career,” Fenton reveals, adding the Chinese market is now projected as a void for most Hollywood movies — a stark contrast to what it was a decade ago.

American-made films contributed more than 48% of China’s box office revenue in 2012, falling to 36% in 2016 and 12.3% in 2021, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway cited by The Hollywood Reporter.

A Hollywood… without China?

'Top Gun: Maverick' (Courtesy: Paramount)

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ (Courtesy: Paramount)

Hollywood has slowly begun to accept a box office without China.

“The fact that China is no longer that important to Hollywood is a great thing for the creative expression of these filmmakers,” Fenton said, citing the box office successes of both “Spider-Man” and “Maverick”. Said, which remained safe globally. Receipts of $1.9 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively.

“We can still make movies without integrating China’s hype or narrative, and if they’re relevant, if they’re universal in tone, then there will be consumer markets. [in China] For future films.”

“But right now, we don’t have to please Beijing with every single one of our films,” Fenton said.

Hollywood has long been accused of bowing to China in order to maintain its lucrative box office opportunity. The country has a population of 1.4 billion, with over 600 million people categorizing themselves as middle class.

“That’s a lot of dollars that could be chasing this type of stuff,” Fenton admitted.

Last year, “Fast and Furious” star John Cena came under intense scrutiny after apologizing to China – in Mandarin – for calling Taiwan a country, underscoring Hollywood’s pursuit of profit.

But with China closing its doors and political tensions rising, Fenton made it time for producers and filmmakers to start looking elsewhere.

Fenton cited India as an attractive opportunity, apart from markets in Latin America and Africa.

“If we can crack [those markets] We’re really going to start moving at a very strong pace toward developing the monetization of this great content Hollywood has produced.”

Alexandra is Senior Entertainment and Food Reporter at Yahoo Finance. follow him on twitter @alliecanal8193 and email her at

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