In the last few years, overseas collection has become a critical, in fact the most important, component of earning for Hollywood studios. In 1991 only 30 percent of the Hollywood’s total collection came from overseas and today it accounts for 70 percent of the total collection, the figures have just reversed.
China, the largest trading partner of the United States, has become the second largest market for American movies. The revenue from China is rising exponentially and in 2020, the collection from China was estimated to surpass that of the United States. It has already happened in the first quarter of 2018 when the total collection of Hollywood movies in China was greater than that of the US.
But, as the Chinese people pour money for the Hollywood studios, the Chinese government has started using these culturally influential studios as Chinese propaganda tool. The scriptwriters, directors, and production studios are forced to show China in a good light to make sure that Chinese government does not ban the movie.
“You have to be very careful before you shoot a script — knowing how big the Chinese market is — to make sure that you get China right,” Stanley Rosen, a professor of political science at University of Southern California told CNBC.
Now American senator Ted Cruz is trying to make sure that Hollywood does not become the visual version of Global Times– the state owned newspaper of China- and to ensure this, he has introduced “Stopping censorship, restoring integrity, protecting talkies (SCRIPT)” Act in the US Senate.
“For too long, Hollywood has been complicit in China’s censorship and propaganda in the name of bigger profits. The Script Act will serve as a wake-up call by forcing Hollywood studios to choose between the assistance they need from the American government and the dollars they want from China,” Cruz said.
The Pentagon assists all major studios of United States, as they make a large number of high-technology movies including many on wars. The announced bill would bar the Pentagon from working with production houses which do not commit to not bow to Chinese censor board. Since the last few years, Hollywood studios have censored many scenes to which China objected and now the scriptwriters have become used to self-imposed sanctions.
Last year when Taiwanese and Japanese flags were removed from the movie “Top Gun: Maverick”, Ted Cruz stood up to the occasion and questioned Hollywood studios. “Top Gun is an American classic, and it’s incredibly disappointing to see Hollywood elites appease the Chinese Communist Party,” he said at the time. “The Party uses China’s economy to silence dissent against its brutal repression and to erode the sovereignty of American allies like Taiwan. Hollywood is afraid to stand up for free speech and is enabling the Party’s campaign against Taiwan.”
Now to stop Chinese propaganda by Hollywood studios, Ted Cruz has brought this bill. “The Chinese Communist Party spends billions and billions of dollars to mislead Americans about China and shape what our citizens see, hear and think,” he said. “All of these activities are part of China’s whole-of-state approach to amass more influence around the world through information warfare — and we need to put a stop to it.”
The media houses and think tanks in the United States have become vocal against Hollywood’s self censorship and forced censorship. A few months ago, The Heritage Foundation, one of the most prominent American conservative think tanks, did a report on ‘How China is taking control of Hollywood’.
Before the Hollywood studios become an extension of Global Times, the US government as well as the intellectual establishment- media and academic- have to rise against the Chinese censorship. The liberal media establishment in Washington and New York, like NYT, WSJ, and Washington Post-which has Chinese government paid ‘China section’ in their pages, have already become mouthpiece of the Communist government. If timely action is not taken and the bill is not passed by the US Congress, the Hollywood would become an unofficial spokesperson of Xi Jinping in the United States.