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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gant Rule, British exceptions and the China factor

UK box office of $60m rivalled the US ('domestic') take

Cinema is at once BOTH a highly globalised industry utterly dominated by the big six US conglomerates AND a highly localised industry in which local stars, settings, even IP/cultural reference points, sell.

The Gant Rule is a useful means of explaining the US dominance, even as this is swiftly undermined by the surging scale and value of the Chinese market, pushing the typical US box office share of a typical global hit to well below the traditional 50%+ (closer now to 40% and falling). This has seen Hollywood squeeze in Chinese stars and settings, shoot alternative endings and extra scenes for different markets, buy up or partner with Chinese firms (with the complication of strict Chinese laws on exporting money), and generally be more sensitive about portraying Chinese as villains or simply the traditional crass stereotype of inscrutable, unemotional, indistinguishable masses (not that this has entirely disappeared).
Headline from  The Wrap
Universal spent millions altering the plot of World War Z (reshoots) so that the epidemic didn't start in China in a doomed attempt to get into the Chinese market. Censors there frown upon horror ('The country has strict laws outlawing any movies that deal with magic, horror or superstition.'). China limits the number of non-Chinese productions allowed in cinemas to just 34 a year - though this may rise in 2017 following negotiations with the WTO (World Trade Organisation). It is not making it easy for Hollywood to extend its global dominance:
...in other cases studios don’t alter their movies until post-production. Chinese censors cut large chunks out of several movies released last year, including 40 minutes from “Cloud Atlas” and 12 minutes from “Men in Black 3,” excising all scenes in Chinatown.
They also cut parts of the latest James Bond film, “Skyfall,” including a scene that featured the assassination of a nameless Chinese security guard.
Marvel had initially planned “Iron Man 3” as a Chinese co-production, a tactic that has been taken with films like “Looper” and “The Karate Kid,” in part because co-productions are not subject to China’s quota for imported films. Chinese censors must still approve them. [The Wrap]
Just 20 years ago China banned all foreign cinema:
China only opened its market to the Hollywood studios in 1994, when its own film industry had reached its nadir. “It wasn’t out of admiration for Hollywood but to save the Chinese film industry,” Rosen said. “People weren’t going to the movies.”
At the time, China only permitted 10 foreign movies to screen, then increased it to 20 before the current total of 34. Those additional 14 slots are all reserved for IMAX or 3D films. [The Wrap]

There is no questioning the ongoing utter dominance of the UK market by Hollywood - for figures read the annual BFI reports. BUT ... localised content still often retains an edge.
The US star helped market the film globally, but the British setting did not help US box office: boxofficemojo.



Localised here is a very broad concept - as is the legal definition of 'British production' for tax purposes:
The UK box office has consistently punched above its weight with family films adapted from British-authored material, fromCharlie and the Chocolate Factory (£37.8m) and Alice in Wonderland (£42.5m) toThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (£44.4m) and, of course, Paddington (£38m).
These are mainly Hollywood productions, but with enough of a lingering element of Britishness to give them a home market boost, and so undermine the Gant rule. The Bridget Jones franchise is a more direct example, although it too is ultimately Hollywood fare (Brit producer WT being an NBC-U subsidiary, Polygram at the time of the original).

Gant's latest box office column highlights The BFG as the latest to benefit from this element of Britishness.

He also noted the latest example of event cinema, an annual classical concert now programmed in an incredible 534 screens, plus a stylized limited re-release earning more than the original run:
Also flying the flag for event cinema was Secret Cinema’s presentation of Dirty Dancing. ...  The run of just six dates delivered a final box office of £1.90m. That’s more than the combined runs of the original 1987 release (£1.62m) and the 20th-anniversary rerelease in 2007 (£224,000).
The BFG towers over UK box office while Star Trek Beyond fails to prosper.

A little bit more on the rising influence of the Chinese market, from an article which looks at directors outraged by remakes of their movies, in this case Red Dawn. The original 1980s flick saw Russians invade a US town, the recent remake swapped Chinese forces for this...until it dawned on the money men that they'd lose out on the Chinese market...so this was belatedly switched to North Korean forces:

Milius was partially vindicated when MGMchanged the invading aggressors to North Koreans for the final cut, though that move was made to appease the lucrative Chinese market more than to cheer up the original film’s director.

How dare you remake my classic! When directors attack

http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2016/sep/16/how-dare-you-remake-my-classic-when-directors-attack?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

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