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Can China Save Hollywood?

By Michailev Lev-Ram Fortune

The movie industry's obsession with Chinese growth is already changing American cinema. Studios hope the country will rescue it too.
Summer is supposed to be Hollywood's most glorious season, a time for tentpole franchises to showcase A-list actors implausibly escaping from expensively produced explosions. But this year, even the fast_and_furious_8_281slew of superhero flicks careering toward the big screen can't fight off Hollywood's most fearsome foe: stating theater attendance.
Over the past decade, the number of tickets sold annually in the U.S. and Canada has sunk by 80 million.
Meanwhile, per capita attendance fell 14% since 2007, to just under four tickets per person per year. To be fair, box-office sales ticked up 2% in 2016, to 11.4 billion, but unless U.S. theater owners find a way to lure larger crowds (and not just sell more popcorn), they will soon face an existential crisis: Do you keep raising prices, even if it means the cinema becomes a niche experience? And if so, how long can that last? Those are the questions that keep studio execs up at night (presumably watching Netflix).
However, there is a silver lining to Hollywood's dilemma - China. Unlike their American counterparts, Chinese consumers are flocking to the theaters. And China is building them out faster than they can fill them with movies. The result is a rich opportunity for U.S. filmmakers who have long been aching to turn China's nearly 1.4 billion people on to its roster of recycled franchises.
Just how many theaters does China need to fill? Last year alone, the country added more than 7,500 silver screens, and its national total surpassed the number in the U.S., which has stayed constant at about 40,000 since 2013. At some point in the near future - projections range from a few months U.S. to two years—China will also overtake the U.S. as the largest generator of boxoffice revenue in the world. Already, the Chinese media and entertainment industry as a whole is worth an estimated 180 billion. China's audiences are attractive to U.S. studios; its protectionist caps on imported movies, not so much The country limits both the number of foreign films allowed in, and the profits allowed out. The good news for Hollywood: As China looks to fill its theaters, it has upped its foreign movie cap from 34 to 38. And despite the heightened trade tensions following the election of Donald Thump, that number is expected to rise even more this year. U.S. studios have another obstacle, though: Chinese studios. Right now, mainland moviemakers spin out mostly absurdist comedies with limited appeal, and lack the big brand names that make a reliable hit (think Wonder Woman and Spider-Man). Yet the highest-grossing flick of all time in the country is homegrown. Stephen Chow's 2016 hit The Mermaid, a sci-fi romantic comedy, raked in nearly 527 million. And conglomerate Dalian Wanda is currently developing one of the largest movieproduction facilities in the world in Qingdao. That's left Hollywood scrambling to get a foothold before Chinese studios take off—and so far, it's working. The Fate of the Furious recently made 388 million at China's box office, the most of any Hollywood film there to date. It earned just 215 million stateside. Therein lies the opportunity: "Smashing stuff up and being brave - those kinds of things tend to translate well," says Clayton Dube, an expert at the University of Southern California. Given China's appetite for well-known action franchises, it's likely we'll see even more smash-'em-up sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots coming out of Hollywood. That may not excite all U.S. audiences, but it will ease studios' fears about slowing growth - at least for now. WHAT MAKES A BLOCKBUSTER ... IN CHINA? Chinese tastes are changing U.S. films as studios woo audiences abroad.
The Fote of the Furious became China's bestselling Hollywood movie ever in April. Here, a few keys to its success in the country. Expect mc re where this came from.
Action-packed. Big stunts, simple plots, end beautiful actors helped Fe bridge the cultural divide.
Not subversive. China has no rating system. Instead, censors cut out sex, violence, and overly political content. Risque movies get e parental advisory, which F8 avoided.
Available In 3D. In Asia, 78% of movie screens are 3D. It's only 39% in the U.S.

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