Hollywood Studios are Outsourcing Audience Jobs to China

Last year signaled a drop in tickets sold on domestic shores. Some theaters are responding by inflating their prices, but some Hollywood studios might be looking for a new audience altogether. BBC News is reporting on the new trend of big-budget filmmaking trying to get Chinese movie fans into seats. Of course, this comes alongside the growing trend of designing movies to appeal to the global audience.

In a quick snapshot, the three highest grossing American movies to hit China were Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($170m), Kung Fu Panda 2 ($98m) and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($77m). Here’s how they broke down:

  • Transformers 3‘s take in China was 18.8% of all foreign sales and 12.9% of the total. It was the second highest ticket-selling country behind the United States.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2‘s take in China was 18.4% of all foreign sales and 13.8% of the total. It was also the second highest behind the United States.
  • Pirates 3‘s take in China was 8.7% of all foreign sales and 7% of the total. It was the third highest behind the United States and Japan.

There’s absolutely an emerging market here, but the bigger picture is the rest of the planet. China is starting to open its borders to American movies (allowing 34 foreign films entering their borders as opposed to 20 in years past), and it’s no surprise that studios are starting to notice there’s more money to be made by including Chinese actors and locations in productions. It’s the next big step in Hollywood movies attempting truly universal appeal.

Yes, bigger budgets are going back to the well with remakes and endless sequels and using 3D as a crutch for creativity, but the real trend that will shape the near future of movies is the world stage that movies much debut on in order to crush records. The Hunger Games scored $155m this weekend, but that was less than 3/4ths of its real total haul – $59.2m came from overseas. That totals $214.2m and means that its foreign box office alone is #83 on the list of Biggest Opening Weekends All-Time, beating Pearl Harbor and Toy Story 2.

Next time you bristle at the popularity of a dumb movie and think, “why do people keep giving X money?” you’re going to have to open that question up to the entire world. You might also want to learn Mandarin.


A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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