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Why Hollywood Movies Are Losing Market Share in China

Wu Jing, the director and star of Chinese smash hit “Wolf Warrior II,” has been pressing the flesh around Los Angeles in recent months to build buzz for the film ahead of this year’s Oscars, whose nominees will be unveiled Tuesday. While “Wolf Warrior II” is unlikely to score a nomination, it’s arguably the most important film of 2017. And its record-setting haul could be a bad omen for Hollywood in an increasingly important market.

Hollywood blockbusters were once unstoppable forces in China, driving growth in total theater box office revenue from $455 million to $8.6 billion over the last decade. But U.S.-made films have lost some of their luster with Chinese moviegoers: Hollywood's share of Chinese box office receipts has fallen to 40% from more than 50% in recent years. That is dimming what has been one of the few bright spots for the U.S. film industry in the past few years, as domestic film attendance and revenue from DVDs have both been in decline.

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In an October conversation, “Detective Chinatown Vol. 2” director Chen Sicheng said Chinese audiences, now used to American films, have higher expectations for local movies, and the country’s directors have taken note. He had no choice but to increase his budget and production value for his upcoming film, spending the money to shoot its New York City action scenes in the real Big Apple.

Hollywood helped teach China the value of blockbusters. Maybe too quickly for its own good.

Rahul Harkawat and Akshay Chaturvedi commented on this article.
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“The Chinese film industry doesn’t need these [blockbusters] nearly as much as they once did.”