With the world about to try and recover from Wuhan Flu and with cinemas one of the most impacted sectors, you might imagine Hollywood was already growing tired of China. Not so! The quest for the almighty dollar has always overruled all other concerns in Tinseltown. So the government are stepping in.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz has given Hollywood studios a blunt choice. You can either take US federal funding and help with filmmaking, or you can get down on your knees and open wide for Chinese box-office. Your days of doing both are over.
There has been concern in government over Chinese influence on the creative industries in recent years. Movies are cut, altered, edited to appease Chinese censors in order to access Chinese box-office. Last month Cruz hit out with a bill, the Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity and Protecting Talkies Act.
This bans studios from accessing Department of Defense funding or assistance for a movie production if it is altered in any way to satisfy Chinese censorship.
Chinese censors are gatekeepers as to which movies are released into theatres and are notoriously politically sensitive. Remember when the Hemsworth led remake of Red Dawn had the Chinese as the invaders and then swapped them out wholesale for North Korea in post production? A movie about American resistance totally cowed by Hollywood’s fear of upsetting China was ironic.
More recently Top Gun: Maverick saw the flags of Taiwan and Japan digitally removed from the back of Tom Cruise’s flight jacket. Cruz cited this specifically in his announcement:
“What message does it send that Maverick, an American icon, is apparently afraid of the Chinese Communists?”.
This also has the potential to hit the Chinese industry too, the first of many such measures expected to be announced globally as the world comes to terms with the fact that China was the source of a deadly virus, with the Chinese response to not be contrite at all.
Instead they have caused a border incident in the Himalayas with India, flexed their military muscle further in the South China Sea, threatened Taiwan and moved to impose laws on Hong Kong in violation of their international treaties.
On top of all this they are felt to have lied, covered up and accused others in an attempt to divert attention during the pandemic.
Yet Chinese regulations requiring that there is only one version of a finished Chinese film if it is to be a co-production. Co-productions are on the increase. Every other movie has an Alibaba Films logo at the start these days.
This means a co-production cannot release a longer, or different, cut overseas. So co-productions with Chinese companies will have virtually zero chance of DoD support or funding access.
Hollywood, however, is unlikely to give up that funding stream and box-office access. So look for creative appeasement decisions being made pre-production behind closed doors.
Nice try though Senator.