For years it seems Hollywood has been gladly catering to China’s whims, acquiescing to whatever the government’s requests have been in order to collect coin from that the Chinese box-office – the second largest market for films behind only the United States.
Now it appears the Middle Kingdom’s lake of opportunity is drying up as far as non-Chinese films are concerned. Variety reports that only two Hollywood titles – “Avengers: Endgame” and “Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw” – will be among the ten top-grossing titles in China in 2019 – down from five last year and “overwhelming market domination” shortly before that.
In fact it has been labelled the worst performance for Hollywood in China since 2008 says IDW Media Holdings senior advisor Chris Fenton. The Chinese box office has been growing year-on-year, but that growth has slowed to a single-digit percentage and, combined with a Chinese yuan weakening against the U.S. greenback, Hollywood’s earnings from China are shrinking.
The market share of locally-produced Chinese films is reportedly rising from 62% last year to 65% in 2019, coming mostly at the expense of Hollywood titles which dropped from 34% to under 31% this year. The shift is being put down to several factors from the maturing of the Chinese audiences for these types of films, to the improvement of locally produced blockbusters such as “The Wandering Earth,” “‘Better Days,” “My People, My Country” and “Nezha”.
Another thing is screens. Nearly 20,000 new screens opened in China this year, adding to the existing 60,000 total, but those new ones were in small towns and rural areas where audiences are more attuned to local rather than foreign content. In any case, China is no longer being seen as a potential box-office savior for failed franchises entries that bomb elsewhere.