China’s economic rise and growing international profile are spurring Hollywood’s interest in movies using Asian themes and production money, U.S. movie industry veterans said Tuesday.
Big studios are trying to push further into China, where box office receipts rose more than a third last year to $2 billion. China represents one of the most attractive growth opportunities for the U.S. movie industry, which is facing declining North American theater revenue and slumping DVD sales.
For the last decade, China has allowed only 20 foreign films a year — mostly big-budget Hollywood fare — to get national distribution. But it opened the door a little more last month when it changed the rules to allow in up to 14 more films a year as long as they are made in 3-D or for the big-screen Imax format. The foreign share of ticket sales will rise to 25 percent, up from 13.5 percent to 17.5 percent under the old system.
At its current growth rate, China is expected to become the world’s 2nd largest movie market in a few years, with box office takings projected to top $5 billion by 2015. In North America, revenue has fallen for two years straight, and ended 2011 with $10.2 billion in ticket sales.
Glenn Berger, the screenwriter of the “Kung Fu Panda” movies, said that China is a trendy theme now.
“Hollywood needs to tell the same story in new and unusual ways and right now China is hot, it’s interesting and most people in the West don’t know very much about it,” Berger said.
Asia’s growing wealth is one big draw for Hollywood studios who are looking for ways to keep costs down, especially on big-budget blockbusters.
DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., which produced “Kung Fu Panda,” said in February it’s tying up with three Chinese companies on a joint venture entertainment company that will make Chinese animated and live action content.
Legendary Entertainment, producer of hits including “The Dark Knight,” ”Inception” and the two “Hangover” installments, partnered with leading Chinese studio Huayi Brothers Media Corp. in June to form Legendary East.
Another Hollywood studio, Relativity Media, said last year it’s partnering with two companies to make Chinese films for global audiences and distribute movies in China.