Monday, September 23, 2013

China set to challenge Big 6 hegemony?

Cinema's global narrative has been well established for many decades: notwithstanding the efforts of some national cinemas to protect their local industry/culture, typically through some mix of state funding or quotas (setting a limit on US imports, or a minimum on the proportion of locally-produced movies cinemas must screen), a small handful of US conglomerates has utterly dominated film industries in most nations on earth. This extends beyond production to distribution and exhibition too, though its the production dominance that is most immediately noticeable.

Here in the UK 'our' biggest, and most successful 'domestic' producer is Working Title - but they're an NBC-Universal subsidiary (and having lost their virtual guarantee of Universal distribution - downgraded to a 'first-look' deal in 2013 - may struggle to maintain their UK lead. Furthermore, they've faced considerable criticism for their highly stereotypical representations of the UK, most often focussed on a narrow white, middle-class, Souther English/London depiction of Britain. The flipside, of course, is that such internationally familiar, and thus easily digested/understood, cliches lead on to much greater scope for substantial box office success than, say Warp Films' arguably superior releases (This is England, Four Lions, Submarine) whose social realist stylings and refusal to follow the market by using Midlands and Northern settings/accents are unlikely to furnish a real blockbuster.
China, and India, have huge film markets, and a strong record of distinctive local production. Could China eventually challenge the US hegemony of global cinema? News of a $5.1bn studio being built in China, the world's most expensive (tho' not the biggest: that distinction remains with India), suggests that this may just be the case.
Hollywood has been busy buying into Chinese and other foreign markets, and many recent releases, including tentpole flicks, reflect the growing priority given to attracting an international audience, watering down the American propaganda and beginning to incorporate more multi-ethnic casts, as well as settings outwith the US.
Something to keep an eye on...
(Guardian article on Dalian Wanda Group's announcement)

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