Hollywood Is Failing In China

It’s the latest blow to an industry that sold out to a totalitarian regime.

What’s happening: Once a profitable market for Western films, China has become disenchanted with Hollywood. Big-budget blockbusters, like this summer’s Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, are no longer enticing enough Chinese moviegoers to make a substantial profit.

  • Zoom in: Chinese audiences used to see Hollywood movies in droves, but now they increasingly prefer domestic cinema, much of which is propaganda. Between 2014 and 2018, Hollywood consistently got at least three films into China’s top 10 movies each year. In 2019, 2021, and 2022, that number went down to two. So far this year, only one has made it. The top two all-time highest-grossing films in the nation are military propaganda.

Fragile relationship: Despite overtly pandering to Beijing, Hollywood is still missing out on the massive Chinese movie market due to strict censorship guidelines. A film can be barred from the country if it contains any language, imagery, or notion that deviates from the communist government’s messaging.

  • Inside Hollywood: Hollywood’s cultural influence continues to recede in the world’s second-largest film market, another example of the industry’s loosening foothold along with the Hollywood strike. Without garnering high profits in China, Hollywood will keep struggling.

Why it matters: “Traditionally American culture like movies has been extremely powerful as a form of soft power. Especially because people everywhere would seek it out even if their governments didn't want them to,” China expert N.S. Lyons tells Upward News.

  • The big shift: “If Chinese people are really rejecting Hollywood movies for homegrown cinema, this is a huge change. It may signal that they're already a lot less sympathetic towards America and American culture than they were in the past,” Lyons says.