‘The China Market Doesn’t Mean as Much as It Used to for Hollywood’: Chris Fenton on Tides Turning
In this special episode, we sat down with Chris Fenton, author of “Feeding the Dragon: Inside the Trillion Dollar Dilemma Facing Hollywood, the NBA, & American Business.” He talks about “Top Gun: Maverick” not appearing in China, if there’s tide turning in Hollywood when it comes to the China market, and how this could all play out going forward.
On “Top Gun,” Fenton said: “If you backtrack and just look at what the movie is about, which is about American exceptionalism and sort of this military that is world class, best in the world, and sort of the policemen of the world in a lot of ways, you could see that just the narrative of it, the thematics of it, might not be exactly palatable for the Chinese Communist Party to begin with. So I think there was always an idea that it might not get into that market, even though it’s a big franchise and has the possibility of generating huge box office.”
He added: “So that was when Paramount made a very good decision—if they’re thinking about business in China—and they brought in Tencent as a financier. But when Tencent actually saw a cut of the movie and saw the trailer for that movie, they saw the Taiwanese flag on the actual jacket, the flight jacket of Tom Cruise’s character, and saw the Japanese flag there too—and they felt like that was a little bit too sensitive in order to try to get that movie approved by sensors in China. So they requested Paramount to take it off. Now, Paramount took it off for the trailer. But a lot of people noticed it being taken off for the trailer, so it created a geopolitical controversy around the world, and particularly in the United States. So that heat that was turned on back in 2019, continued as COVID delayed the release of the movie. And I think, ultimately, Tom Cruise and the filmmakers involved and the studio Paramount said enough is enough, this movie doesn’t stand a great chance of getting in the market, number one.”
“Number two is: a lot of the movies from Hollywood that had been getting into the market hadn’t been making all that much. And number three is: hey, we’re American, we should protect free speech rights and the freedom of creativity rights of our filmmakers, and to edit something like that for the world because China’s demanding it just doesn’t seem right. So they put those flags back in. And of course, now China’s not happy about it. But I would say the rest of the world is pretty happy about it, to the tune of $300 million worldwide. And that doesn’t include a single dollar coming from China.”
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