Monday, June 3, 2024

Quote of the Day (Lynda Obst, on How China's Influenced Hollywood's Film Product)

“China is the No. 2 market now. In 2020, it will be No. 1. That's why movies must all be sequel-ized or sequel-izable. So that they become more and more familiar to the international audience, where 80 percent of the profits are now coming from. We can't afford to spend the same kind of money marketing movies internationally that we spend here, so we need pre-awareness: titles and characters that are already known. International audiences love action, wild and exciting special effects that can only be created by our technology. No nuance. Not so good for so-called writing. And China won't look at anything that isn't 3-D, which means everything is made that way – even with domestic audiences rejecting it.”—American film producer and author Lynda Obst quoted by David Edelstein, “The Tentpole of Doom,” New York Magazine, July 8-15, 2013

What Ms. Obst predicted a decade ago did indeed come to pass: China became the world’s #1 film market in 2020.

It’s become more complicated since then. Ironclad COVID-19 lockdowns shut Hollywood out of China for a time, and in 2023 all top 10 movies for the country were homegrown products, according to a January report on the prior year’s international box office from Deadline.

So will Hollywood continue to cite China as the primary cause for The Sequel Syndrome?

Whether the American industry remains in the default position that pre-awareness sells will be determined by this summer’s grosses. This January article from MovieWeb indicated that 35% of wide releases for this year will be sequels, spin-offs, and reboots.

But, in a sign that audiences might be tiring of same-old, same-old, the latest installment in the “Mad Max” franchise, Furiosa, has underperformed at the box office.

Hollywood executives have been complaining that since the pandemic, older viewers have largely preferred to stay at home. But these audiences have been given little reason to come out to see more adult fare, and Hollywood still hasn’t figured out a way to market low-budget films for niche audiences. Until it does, filmgoers will have to brace for more of the same.

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