Is China rescuing Hollywood’s flops?

After an unexpectedly disappointing $41 million North American box office for Tomorrowlandover the the Memorial Day weekend, it’s reported that the film’s producers are turning to China to reduce their losses for the $190 million picture.

That’s according to a report by American business magazine Forbes.

Titled “Can China Save Disney’s Tomorrowland?”, the article defines China as a “a sort of haven of second chances for films that disappoint in North America and Europe”, and that Chinese audiences often “go against the global tide”.

According to statistics published by IMDB, and, films badly received in the US enjoy a high popularity in China.

For example, Need for Speed, Escape Plan and Pacific Rim gained a much bigger box office in China than in the US, consisting of 33 per cent, 34 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively, of the global selling gross.

Meanwhile, foreign pictures such as Bait 3D and The Expendables 3 were warmly welcomed by audiences only in China.

Fast economic growth, improved quality of life and people’s preference forinternational big budget films makes China a hot destination for Hollywood productions.

So, is China really the hedge for Hollywood flops?

“Many Chinese audiences are new film viewers and their appreciation of those works are not fully developed. So it is easy sometimes to generate the situation where the film quality and box office are upside down in the Chinese market, ” said Raymond Zhou, a well-known columnist and movie critic.

He said that compared to western audiences, the art of film is still a relatively new entertainment in China.

“The maturity of the Chinese film market is more of less equivalent to the 1980s in other industries,” Zhou explained.

According to Xinhua Daily Telegraph, China is regulated to import no more than 34 Hollywood films, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the whole production of the major film making centre.

Therefore, many good films don’t get screened by a Chinese audience, and yet those that have, even with ‘flop label’ in the West, do enjoy better production quality than domestic works.

In fact, it is not just Hollywood flops that earn big money in China. Domestic films such as the Tiny Times series and The Breakup Guru, which won the title of “most disappointing film” at the sixth Golden Broom Awards (China’s equivalent to the Golden Raspberry Awards for the worst in film), also received considerable sales.

“In China, the review of a film and its box office is not strongly related, according to my experience,” said film director Donald Li, who had studied and worked in the US for more than eight years before returning to China. His comment echoed Zhou’s opinion.

Li said that Chinese audiences are more likely to go to a film just for one or two selling points, whereas American viewers tend to regard the movie as a complete product.

“A famous star, or fancy scenes, that would be the point that triggers a Chinese viewer to go to the cinema while American audience are more likely to focus on the whole quality of the movie.” said Li.

Another interesting phenomenon is that American audiences seem to prefer movies with familiar themes while Chinese audiences are more open and curious to different genres and themes, according to Li.

“Themes such as Superman, Spiderman, or Marvel’s series, they are almost the guarantee for box office in the North America. However, original stories like Pacific Rim and Cloud Atlas are less familiar for American viewers. After all, they are all new to Chinese audience,” Li said. “So in a sense, American audiences are more conservative.”

Based on the analysis of Xinhua Daily Telegraph, the film tastes in China become increasingly diversified and audiences are segmented. Some good films, though they don’t perform well in sales, have received much flavor from Chinese film critics.

“The audience’s taste will improve in the long run,” Zhou said. It just takes time.