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Chinese Crackdown on Entertainment Industry Pushes Foreigners to Rethink Market | Voice of America

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WASHINGTON – As Beijing takes on its entertainment industry, from legendary stars to their fan clubs, some non-Chinese filmmakers are cutting back on projects they hoped to attract audiences to what has been a lucrative market.

In February 2020, Chinese authorities published “Detailed Rules for Examining the Content of the Internet Variety Program.” Addressed to television and internet producers, the guidelines say they “should not inappropriately use stars from Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan or foreign countries.”

Some Chinese celebrities have interpreted the rules to mean that they have to renounce dual nationality and demonstrate their loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party if they wanted to continue performing in China. Actor and singer Nicholas Tse, who moved from Hong Kong to Vancouver, British Columbia as a child, said last week in an interview with state-controlled China Central Television (CCTV) that he was renouncing his Canadian citizenship. Other celebrities in the Chinese market who hold dual citizenship would consider following his example.

For other players in the entertainment industry, the directives caused a decoupling from China, even as the film industry was accused of bending to the country that was the the largest cinema market in the world in 2020, and China is targeting the global film market.

“Netflix is ​​not in China”

Adam Sandler, an American actor, writer and producer, has changed the setting for his upcoming Netflix comedy “Hustle” from China to Spain because, as he said last month on “The Dan Patrick Show,” “Netflix does ‘is not in China “.

A description of “Hustle” can be found on the entertainment industry website IMDB: “Failed basketball scout discovers phenomenal street ball player while in China and sees prospect as his opportunity to return to the NBA. ” IMDB has yet to identify the filming location.

FILE – Adam Sandler speaks at the 35th Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California on February 8, 2020.

The film is part of a four-movie deal with Sandler that Netflix announced in January. Neither Netflix nor Sandler responded to VOA Mandarin’s request for comment.

Clayton Dube, director of the Chinese-American Institute at the University of Southern California, told VOA in an email: “As Netflix is ​​in Spain and other European or Spanish-speaking markets, he asked Sandler to change the frame of his film hoping it might be able to use it to generate potential interest from subscribers. “

Like many American entertainment companies, Netflix has not entered the Chinese market. In 2017, Netflix signed a content licensing agreement with iQiyi, a Chinese streaming platform, for a subset of the original Netflix series. Two years later, the partnership collapsed.

FILE – Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings smiles during an interview with The Associated Press in Barcelona, ​​Spain, February 28, 2017.

In a interview with CNBC last SeptemberNetflix co-CEO Reed Hastings said the streaming company has focused on growth opportunities in the rest of the world but not in China. A year earlier, Hastings said the company had spent more money to acquire rights to Mandarin content and produce its own original Mandarin works for appeal to Mandarin speakers outside of China.

“Netflix has tried for years to enter the Chinese market, but now it understands that the Chinese government will not allow foreign entertainment platforms to compete with those it controls. foreign content on Chinese platforms, ”Dube said.

Aynne Kokas, assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, told VOA Mandarin in a phone interview that celebrities in the United States and China face different kinds of pressure as a result of the crackdown.

“I think from a financial point of view, American companies are definitely looking at their exposure to China and looking at how much they are investing and how much they are dependent on the Chinese market,” she said. “But there is no requirement from the US government or even an implied requirement from the US government that they stop operating in China in the entertainment section.”

On the other hand, Chinese entertainment laws may require the promotion of “China’s national values, which puts a different kind of pressure on Chinese celebrities,” she added.

Ignoring China at a price

But how much does the Western entertainment industry, especially Hollywood, stand to lose if it pulls out of the Chinese market?

That’s almost impossible to estimate because some films that fail in the United States may turn a profit after releasing in the Chinese market, according to Wendy Su, associate professor and Chinese media studies expert at the University of California-Riverside.

“Rampage” by Dwayne Johnson[2018]brought in $ 101 million in the United States but $ 156 million in China, ”she said.

However, some players in the entertainment industry have already chosen not to try to appease the Chinese government to enter the market, according to Su.

FILE – Quentin Tarantino accepts the award for Best Writing – Original Screenplay for “Django Unchained” at the Oscars in Los Angeles on February 24, 2013.

Director Quentin Tarantino “refused to comply with China’s censorship requirement and believed his film ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ could generate enough profit without the Chinese market,” she said. Released in July 2019, the Oscar-winning film Tarantino wrote and directed grossed $ 139 million domestically and $ 357.4 million globally as of the end of October. according to Forbes.

Stanley Rosen, professor of political science at the University of Southern California, told VOA in a virtual interview that the loss to companies like Netflix could be bearable.

For the Chinese film industry, Rosen said, “You also have to take into account that there is a quota system: 34 revenue sharing films per year, 14 of which must be IMAX and / or 3D. So that limits the market to start. Then all the studios fight for their share of the quota. “

In the TV industry, China’s major streaming services have already broadcast over 100 foreign TV series without censorship. Now that this practice has been “very severely restricted after new regulations began to be introduced in 2014, which would make Netflix’s job even more difficult [to get in]”Rosen said.

Today, “you have to submit the entire season in advance with captions when the censorship occurs if they allow you to show it,” Rosen continued. “So Netflix is ​​not losing what they could have lost when they first tried to enter China when the market was much more open.”

What China needs from the United States

While many experts agree that the United States and China are mutually dependent in the entertainment industry, Katherine Chu, a professor at California State University-Dominguez Hills, whose research interests include Chinese film studies / Asians, stressed that China, for now, needs the United States. for its platform, established studios, talents and technology.

She said these American resources could help China in its “aggressive plan to dominate the fair market in 2035”.

In May 2019, Beijing requested the production of 100 films a year that would each bring in more than 100 million RMB ($ 15 million), according to Variety, an authoritative medium on the entertainment industry.

“A country’s film development level reflects its total national strength,” said Wang Xiaohui, deputy executive director of the Central Propaganda Department and director of the National Film Bureau, when announcing the production target. of films, according to the state-controlled newspaper. People’s Daily.

The Chinese film industry wants “maybe just a little thing, like a screenwriter how to write a movie that you can target global audiences,” Chu said. “Because the Chinese are trying very hard to copy the Hollywood model and then sell their Chinese films.”

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