Movie Revenue From China To Surpass U.S. Market Within Ten Years

Another sign of the extent to which the continued growth of the Chinese economy is shaping business decisions around the world can be found in the prediction of one major Hollywood studio executive:

LAS VEGAS — A decade from now, the Chinese box office will eclipse North America in terms of revenue, Warner Bros. International Cinemas president Millard Ochs predicted as CinemaCon got underway Monday in Las Vegas.
Ochs was among a contingent of top international studio executives speaking on the first day of the annual gathering of theater owners hosted by the National Association of Theater Owners (opening day has traditionally been reserved for the international side of the business).

Ochs and Paramount Pictures International president Andrew Cripps — delivering the keynote breakfast speeches — said the foreign box office is exploding thanks to a growing middle class and new cinema construction.

Considering its potential, China may be the most important emerging market. Last year, Chinese box office revenue was up nearly 65% to $1.5 billion. Half of that came from 3D titles. And according to some estimates, three new screens are being added each day.

“China will surpass U.S. in 10 years,” Ochs said.

This growing importance of the Chinese market is real reason, for example, that studio executives decided to make last minute changes to the script of the upcoming remake of the 1980s Cold War movie Red Dawn:

China has become such an important market for U.S. entertainment companies that one studio has taken the extraordinary step of digitally altering a film to excise bad guys from the Communist nation lest the leadership in Beijing be offended.

When MGM decided a few years ago to remake “Red Dawn,” a 1984 Cold War drama about a bunch of American farm kids repelling a Soviet invasion, the studio needed new villains, since the U.S.S.R. had collapsed in 1991. The producers substituted Chinese aggressors for the Soviets and filmed the movie in Michigan in 2009.

But potential distributors are nervous about becoming associated with the finished film, concerned that doing so would harm their ability to do business with the rising Asian superpower, one of the fastest-growing and potentially most lucrative markets for American movies, not to mention other U.S. products.

As a result, the filmmakers now are digitally erasing Chinese flags and military symbols from “Red Dawn,” substituting dialogue and altering the film to depict much of the invading force as being from North Korea, an isolated country where American media companies have no dollars at stake.

While some of the right are crying foul over the last minute changes, it’s a fairly sensible and smart business decision.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Brett #2 says:

    While some of the right are crying foul over the last minute changes, it’s a fairly sensible and smart business decision.

    The sensible and smart business decision would have been to simply not do a re-make of Red Dawn in the first place. It was a silly hit that played off of Cold War fears, and is not at all applicable in the modern world.

  2. Brett,

    I don’t disagree at all. The original Red Dawn was rather implausible to begin with (as was the TV miniseries that ABC created a few years later Amerika) but at least it had some fun to it. Why Hollywood feels the need to remake old movies is beyond me.