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China Lowdown: Chinese officials and viewers are influencing the Hollywood movies you love

This article is part of China Lowdown, WONKedition’s series to help you understand one of the world’s biggest super powers.

September 2020
Directly or indirectly, China is more and more influencing the movies that people watch in the US and around the world.

China is already a key market for the Hollywood studios that make the most popular films in the world, writes The Economist. That means studios like Disney, Universal and Sony can make big money by producing films that China loves.

That’s one reason why Disney, the biggest Hollywood studio, produced this year’s Mulan remake about a girl soldier that saves China from foreign invaders. Next year, Disney and Marvel plan to release the Chinese-themed superhero movie “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”.

It’s not only about adapting to the taste of Chinese viewers. Studios are also making changes to movies to satisfy demands by the Chinese government. For example, in Mission Impossible III Chinese officials wanted changes in a scene showing the skyline of the city of Shanghai. The studio yielded and made the changes. If studios don’t comply with officials movies may be banned or receieve punishments such as being assigned unpopular dates for theater premieres.

Another trend is that officials favor movies that foreign studios have made in collaboration with Chinese studios. Next time you see a movie, take a look at which companies produced it. Don’t be surprised if one of the producers is a Chinese studio you’ve never heard of before.

Read other articles in China Lowdown:
- What happens in China stays in … everywhere.
- President Xi’s hybrid capitalism.

And check out The Economist’s story Hollywood’s Chinese conundrums.

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