Hollywood movies may be too dumb for China

Blockbusters like 'Iron Man 3' battle more subtle Chinese fare as audiences choose plot and complexity over explosions and 3-D.

By Jason Notte Apr 22, 2013 2:41PM
A woman looks at an advertisement for the U.S. film Remember a few decades ago when the U.S. could just ship some Pepsi (PEP) and McDonald's (MCD) over to the Soviet Union and let the cultural imperialism begin? Yeah, that doesn't work nearly as well in China.


Sure, Tom Cruise can still top the box office for 23 straight weeks with Paramount Pictures' (VIA, VIA.B) "Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol," but The New York Times notes that demand for Hollywood films like Warner Brothers' (TWX) "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" and MGM's "Skyfall" isn't nearly as robust. According to ChinaFilmBiz.com, the take for American movies in China during the first quarter fell 65%, to about $200 million, while sales for Chinese-language films rose 128% to well over $500 million.


That doesn't mean "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" from Paramount Pictures can't still make $33 million in its opening weekend (roughly 75% of its opening night take in North America) at the Chinese box office. It just means the studio should prepare to have the tar beaten out of it by Chinese films such as the comedies "Lost in Thailand" (similar to "The Hangover Part II") and "Finding Mr. Right" (a Chinese "Sleepless in Seattle").


The film studios blame the Chinese government, which imposed a two-month blackout of foreign films last year when they began making too much money and offered theaters a bonus for showing domestic films, according to The Times. Local film critics, however, note that the Chinese moviegoer isn't all that taken with the explosion-laden, CGI-painted blockbusters that drive revenue-boosting add-ons like IMAX (IMAX) and 3-D showings. "Lost In Thailand," for example, took in more than $200 million last year and drew more moviegoers than "Avatar" did during its run in China.


Critics and industry analysts note that Hollywood's one constant in China is its repeated underestimation of the college-educated Chinese moviegoer. Films considered nice Oscar bait in the U.S. -- including "Cloud Atlas" and 20th Century Fox's (NWS) "Life of Pi" -- are foreign-language blockbusters in China. The film opening the same weekend in China as "Iron Man 3," the coming-of-age film "So Young," is expected to pack theaters with its adaptation of a popular Chinese novel and its directorial debut for actress Zhao Wei ("Shaolin Soccer").


The result? Hollywood isn't shaping China, but China sure is shaping Hollywood. As The Hollywood Reporter points out, the Chinese trailer for Disney's (DIS) "Iron Man 3" has already been recut to include more of Chinese actors Wang Xueqi and Fan Bingbing.


And Chinese backer DMG Entertainment has paid to have extra scenes tailored to Chinese audiences added to the film's original cut. Unless those new scenes involve Robert Downey Jr. getting introspective and melancholy during a reunion with Tony Stark's old college roommates, Hollywood's mindless popcorn blockbusters may still fall a bit short with Chinese moviegoers.


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113Comments
Apr 22, 2013 3:32PM
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This is what happens when you pay yourselves, throw huge Red Carpet parties for yourselves, and only invite the media and the beautiful. You start to believe in your own bullsheet ideas and grow arms long enough to pat yourselves on the backside for a job well done.

Apr 22, 2013 3:46PM
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I have written on this site many times that television in America plays a major role in dummying down our population. Just think of some of the movies and shows that's out there today. Anyone for gold digging, alligator chasing, moonshiners, driving trucks in snow... And we call ourselves smart.
Apr 22, 2013 5:20PM
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"US movies crashing in China"

Don't worry about it. They are crashing here as well.

Apr 22, 2013 3:36PM
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Actually the Chinese just steal the movies by illegally downloading them. They treat it like every other piece of intellectual property they're too stupid to create and just steal it. All while their govt condones it and blackmails every American business trying to do business there. If only our elected officials cared a fraction of that much. stead they are offshoring our jobs along with the American executives. It all somehow comes back to our elected rat officials. Vote them all out in the upcoming elections every one of them coward dems and thieving republicans!
Apr 22, 2013 3:25PM
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They have not made a decent entertaining movie in H-wood in years. The nut jobs out there lost their way years ago. They are shallow and too self absorbed in their ways.

Apr 22, 2013 4:12PM
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The so-called movies coming out of Hollywood today, are going the way of the really good music we used to listen to. I have never been able to listen to a complete "RAP" song. Song? Hell, it's not even music. It's a bunch of hollering vulgar words, to a drum beat. Yet, the Rappers make millions off this crap! Why is there even a market for junk like this?

It's the same with so-called Movies. I can watch one of those animated "cartoons" and wonder what the hell was that I just watched!

Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, a black Astrophysicist, says: "It is not a crime to be ignorant, but it is dangerous for an ignorant person to rise to power, without knowing he is ignorant!"

Real talent takes at least a little common sense. Madonna couldn't carry a tune in a bucket! She is one of the top singers! Good grief!

Apr 22, 2013 4:40PM
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Most American movies these days suck ... There is Little to NO acting & weak story lines ... and what acting there is, is poor ... most movies are poorly written over the top/fake special effect pieces of crap.
Apr 22, 2013 4:23PM
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This is sad because right now in America the only thing we make here is Movies,and they are crap too.
Apr 22, 2013 3:57PM
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The Chinese government places "black out" rules on American movies because they are making too much money. I think our government, if they cared, should do the same with Chinese products. The Chinese simply view our movies and then adapt them to their own culture. That isn't art or creativity; it's stealing pure and simple. They are a country of thieves.
Apr 22, 2013 6:41PM
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China is not the only one who is sick of dumb movies filled from start to finish with explosions, unending car chases, 15 minute superhero hand-to-hand combat scenes, unnecessary violence, all without the slightest story.  It's like watching a video game.  Actually at times video games have more of a plot.  I'm amazed people in this country are willing to buy tickets and waste hours of their lives watching this kind of drivel.  If you told an American 20 years ago there will come a day that movies would be reduced to such garbage they would have laughed at you.  And yet, here we are.  Can you blame the Chinese for not watching "The Avengers"? 
Apr 22, 2013 6:19PM
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Well maybe if Hollywood wasn't on it's third remake of Freddy vs. Jason 2...

Apr 22, 2013 4:46PM
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So Hollywood has found out mindless doesn't work over there. It shouldn't work over here
but sadly it does.  One of the biggest challenges this country faces is simply to get people 
off the couch and to learn to think again.

To equate a college education to a more critical viewer is, well stupid. I suspect the cultural
differences are more to blame than anything else.
Apr 22, 2013 7:50PM
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We could compare films of yore with the drivel that is produced today. Or the music. Or the television. Even the news. When businessmen took over all these industries, money became more important than story or originality - otherwise known as 'art'. In the old days before most of you were born, we had comedy that was hilarious without being 'dumbed down'. We had dramatic TV that wasn't 'dumbed down'. We had news that concentrated on real issues and reality and less to ratings and sensationalism. Compare 'Playhouse 90' to 'Honey Boo Boo'. The 'Jack Benny Show' to 'Anger Management'. 'The Star Spangled Banner' by Jimi Hendrix compared to anything produced in the last 20 years. Walter Cronkite compared to anyone on the news today. Yes, we had some mindless movies back then ('The Blob') but we also a balance of movies where more of a percentage were first-rate entertainment as opposed to today where the majority of them are low entertainment and high 'excitement'. Yes, it's fun to watch stuff blow up. But how much fear, violence and destruction becomes too much? I have to wonder if it influences the diminishing of human value for many of these people killing people in quantity. There is like an enurement to the violence and a detachment that is portrayed in these films. That can't be a good symbolism of our society.
Apr 22, 2013 3:33PM
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And Chinese movies are getting oscars in the US, give me a break! Culture difference, maybe a wee bit?
Apr 22, 2013 7:20PM
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The level of Hollywood Diarrhea in Film making is to blame. Fast buck, with no substance. When it comes to the world there is enough violence in it. Wanna be Hero's that wish they had be real soldiers, trying to play bill bad **** commando is trite. What the world wants is substance. Make a movie that beings us together , not one that teaches our young and the socially weak to hate, kill and get revenge. If they had been in real war. Saw real death, they would not be so quick to make these mindless movies. 
Apr 22, 2013 8:13PM
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Intelligent people doing the same.

Hollywood has not brought out a single move I found worth watching in years.

Apr 22, 2013 6:18PM
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One of the best movies I know is the natural beauty of the earth.  The trees, all green as the leaves blossom out. The clouds as they constantly change shapes and formations.  The evening setting sun with all the glows of yellow, orange and brilliant rays peeking through dark grey clouds!  Then, as the sun settles beneath the horizon, to go inside and be with the one God has granted us to be with.  A restful night and then the dawn of a new day!!!  That is entertainment!  The screching and hollering, bang, bang shoot 'em up, cowboy and horses are only second best at most. And, then the science fiction, don't worry me with it!!! The last movie I watched was Red October, not long after it came out.  And, I regret wasting time and money on that.
Apr 22, 2013 4:32PM
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Other countries aim a bit higher in their movie's target demographic because the mass populations there can't afford to get to the theatre much less buy a ticket.   Couple that with a government dictating what is allowed to be shown and shameless producers blatantly culling prior art once it's been proven popular and you get a "best-of" higher-brow product.

Notice how "bollywood" wasn't mentioned.  India turns out a huge constant stream of "movies" which are simply sappy soap-operas lengthened to 1+ hours.  Maybe 1% are worth watching.

Apr 22, 2013 4:46PM
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Who really cares what is liked in China? That is why they are called "American movies"  Hollywood is American not Chinese.  There is nothing original from China, copy and steal everything.
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