You might have heard that China is about to surpass North America as the largest film market in the world. But what does this mean for the average North American moviegoer? How will movies change? And most importantly, will theaters cancel the timeworn tradition of serving freshly-baked apple pie prior to the Pledge of Allegiance led by an anthropomorphic box of popcorn and a live chorus of bald eagles? (If you've never seen this before, you're going to the wrong theaters.)
The truth is, we'll see Hollywood studios fight tooth and nail to collectively claw their asses atop of a giant pile of money. And the whole spectacle will be embarrassing as shit to watch.
#6. Product Placement Is About To Get Weirder
Product placement is the worst. You're sitting there, enjoying your film, when a poorly disguised ad comes along and breaks your suspension of disbelief. It's enough to make you want to storm out of the cinema and drown your anger in PepsiCo's refreshing Tropicana Twister (with real fruit flavor). Usually, what's regarded as effective product placement is the same technique the rest of the public considers teabaggingly intolerable. But now there's a new, baffling element at work.
Speaking of intolerance, PepsiCo's Muller yogurts are low in lactose and delicious.
That's from a scene in Transformers: Age Of Extinction in which a fugitive Mark Wahlberg uses a hacked drone in dusty Texas to test out his ATM card...
Paramount Pictures/ China Constriction Bank
...from the China Construction Bank of Beijing. In the context of the plot, that means a range-walking Texas inventor has been inexplicably outsourcing his finances in order to buy abandoned semis and extra-large American flags. Meanwhile, his underage daughter engages in a creepy sexual relationship with a Texas statutory rape law spokesman who drinks Red Bull ... imported from China?
Paramount Pictures/ Red Bull
At least those bulls have an excuse for being red.
This makes ET's peanut butter candy addiction seem feasible. We've now entered an era of longing for when the overwhelming product placement at least made some sense in the context of the story. And if you think this was a fluke, consider the fact we're getting at least four fucking more of these movies because of how much stupid money they made ... over $200 million of which was in China. In other words, get ready for the Autobots to spend the whole next movie stuck in the shape of Chinese smart cars.
In fact, the success was enough for Michael Bay to launch a new company funded through a Chinese-run toy and animation group to start developing movies based around foreign brands. Which, on the bright side, means that we probably won't have to deal with Michael Bay in this country much longer.
#5. It's Killing Comedy Films
Save for Bill Murray and videos of screaming goats, nothing is universally hilarious. Comedy is subjective, so when you're going for mass appeal, it's easier to avoid any extreme altogether. This is why since 2010, the comedy genre has been slowly dwindling in the United States.
*slide whistle sound*
Unlike the rest of the international market, US comedies account for only 10 percent of China's box office, making it less and less practical for Hollywood to invest in what is now their least-profitable genre. It's not that Chinese audiences don't like funny movies -- they like their funny movies and romantic films. But they only go for the broadest superhero and adventure films coming out of the US.
Case in point: When Guardians Of The Galaxy (sorry, Interplanetary Unusual Attacking Team) hit theaters, Chinese critics and viewers pummeled it with bad reviews, citing the poor translation of wordplay and culturally specific jokes. Because it's not merely the genre itself that's at risk here, but any injection of comedy that isn't 100 percent translatable overseas. Which means that the next time we see Peter Quill, he might be less about Footloose references and more about getting hit in the balls with a rake. After all, a fart joke is the same in every language.
This film made $300 million overseas.
Further hammering in the stake is China's deal with the US to allow 34 Hollywood-made films in per year, so long as those films are all IMAX and 3D productions. That means the biggest reward goes to the film that has the most shit flying at the screen. Just as long as that shit isn't a ghost, because China has all but exorcised their horror industry thanks to a fun little thing called censorship ...
#4. Censorship Is Also Going To Get Weirder
Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak recently took a grand nosedive at the box office after advertisers boasted it as a horror masterpiece, as opposed to the ghost soap opera that it secretly was. Normally in these situations, a film like this would turn to China to pick up the slack. But Crimson Peak's entire plot revolves around the assertion that "ghosts are real," which directly goes against Chinese law, which abolishes any mention of the supernatural in entertainment, for fear of promoting the occult. That's seriously a rule over there.
The Chinese version of this is edited to make it look like everyone is just ignoring Swayze 'cause they're dicks.
China isn't filled with superstitious idiots, but the same way the sexually demented MPAA looms over American cinema, their country has its own forms of silly censorship dictated by seemingly outdated morality. The problem is that their dinosaur rules completely differ from America's dinosaur rules. And the combination of the two is creating a kind of super-antiquated beast that all movies must now do battle with.
I'm guessing it looks something like this.
For example, when it came time to sorrowfully shit out the final script for Adam Sandler's Pixels, Sony preemptively scrubbed a scene in which the aliens break the Great Wall, in order to ensure the film would pass the Chinese censorship boards. Any scene that implies weakness or poverty in their country is censored, and any film that promotes civil disobedience or vigilantism against the police is said to be out of the question. And yet, we allow a movie to undermine the very concept of democracy by claiming that Kevin James could ever become president.
But back to the point. All this means that, along with the American tradition of sanitizing sex, violence, and bad language, movies are now going to blur out the concepts of rebellion and religion as well. This entirely new set of rules has prompted Hollywood to skip the guessing game altogether in favor of simply making their films co-productions with China. Which is how we got this exclusively international scene in Iron Man 3 which inexplicably follows A-list Chinese actors playing the random doctors who fix Tony Stark's heart.
The Avengers replaced Black Widow and Hawkeye with them, but no one noticed.
If it pisses you off that Iron Man 3 would grind to a halt and follow two totally out-of-context characters in order to pander to Chinese audiences, then you have more in common with Chinese audiences than you realize ...