2017, November 8
An Observation on Sino-American Film Co-Productions
As the film industry grows more interconnected, China has become one of the most influential factors in a Hollywood production as the country helps the film medium remain relevant in today’s culture and generate box office revenue. Said phenomenon is most prevalent in Sino-American film co-productions which can be traced to Sony Pictures Classics and Columbia Asia’s The Road Home in 1999 (Peng, 2017). But the climate in cinema has changed as the practice of these co-productions becomes commonplace. The increase in Sino-American co-productions demonstrates a significant global relationship attributed to the opportunities of the Chinese market and its financial benefits in the global film market.
Prior to the flourishing force of Sino-American film co-productions, China faced hardships with its film industry. The People’s Republic of China held the country’s film industry under tight control when it came into power in 1949; it was not until 1978 that film studios reopened at the same time the nation opened its market to foreign businesses (Aranburu, 2017). A period of successes and failures soon followed and led to an uncertainty about the industry. Chinese studios’ unproductivity in the 1990s, however, allowed The Fugitive to be the first American film imported into China and gross $3 million in 1993 (Aranburu, 2017). The success of the movie would be a catalyst on the importance of the Chinese box office and motivate the United States film industry to target this new market. A challenge and blessing to import films into China, though, presented itself in the form of the country’s foreign film quota.
The foreign film quota in China, despite its strict rules, acts as a motivation behind the United States’ push for co-productions. A common method used to abide by the film quota and import films into China is through revenue sharing in which the producers of a foreign film earn only 25% of revenue (Peng, 2017) Even though a film can be released in this manner, the entrance into China is still limited and separates the countries’ industries further apart. There is also little profit to be made by both parties despite China taking in 75% of revenue. A co-production, on the other hand, is “exempt from the quota limit and can be released in China as a domestically made movie” and can earn up to 43% of the revenue (Su, 2017). This specific difference in profits and access ushered in the revival of Sino-American co-productions. Iron Man 3 and Looper were among these first co-productions and marked a transition stage in which Hollywood began integrating Chinese elements into their films (Peng, 2017). The synergy between the United States and China was established. Additionally, the experimentation of early projects such as the ones mentioned would serve as examples on what to do to capture the Chinese...