by Julia Pierrepont III
China and the United States, the two largest box offices in the world, displayed divergent viewing patterns illustrating interesting cross-cultural similarities and differences in 2018, Hollywood business insiders said.
On the dissimilar side, of the top 10 movies in the China box office, five were homegrown Chinese hits, including the anti-terrorist action pic, "Operation Red Sea" with 576 million U.S. dollars in China, the crime-buster comedy, "Detective Chinatown 2" with 541 million dollars.
The action fantasy comedy, "Monster Hunt 2," the screwball comedy, "Hello Mr. Billionaire" and the unexpectedly poignant, "Dying to Survive" grabbed 356 million dollars, 366 million dollars and 451 million dollars respectively.
Their success in China reflected Chinese producers' growing understanding of the tastes of their home market, former Fox studio executive Xian Li told Xinhua Thursday.
"Chinese filmmakers are growing more sophisticated, exploring more genres, learning to tell better stories," Li said. "And the elevation in production values can be seen on screen, thanks to factors such as budget increases, more skilled crew, international collaborations."
One unexpected and extraordinary hit, which ranked third in China's annual box office sweepstakes, was the incandescent, social issue-oriented dramedy, "Dying to Survive," one of the finest films this year.
It is yet to be released overseas and is considered by Hollywood to be the first film to break the cultural wall for Chinese exports since "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon."
"When the Chinese laugh, it is the key to opening their mind," explained Zheng Xu, "Dying to Survive" star and producer.
"So with humor, I can show a man who only helps sick people for money. Then the audience stands in his shoes and by the end of the movie, they are moved by their own compassion," he told Xinhua.
Some genres have an easier time crossing cultural boundaries. Most notably, Hollywood blockbuster action pictures and superhero movies fare well in every territory in the world, and account for the other top five box office smashes in China this past year.
No surprise, two of the hits were Marvel superhero movies: the apocalyptic downer, "Avengers: Infinity War," which raked in 679 million dollars in the United States and 360 million dollars in China, and the reluctant superhero pic "Venom," with the United States taking 213 million dollars and China taking 270 million dollars.
A third was the DC/Warner Bros own aquatic superhero offering, "Aquaman," which swam to 751 million dollars worldwide, including a hefty 232 million dollars in China versus only 189 million dollars in the United States.
Also in the top 10 was the latest in Universal's Jurassic franchise, "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," which took a 1.3 billion bite out of the global box office, 417 million dollars in the United States and 261 million dollars in China; and Steven Spielberg's dystopic AR/VR fantasy, "Ready Player One," scoring 218 million dollars in China and 137 million dollars in the United States.
Hollywood has come to rely heavily on the China market to up their global earnings, and though many of 2018's action pics did well in both markets, some Hollywood blockbusters barely made a ripple in the China market.
Most notably, George Lucas's latest two Star Wars installments, "The Last Jedi" and "Solo: a Star Wars Story."
In the United States, "The Last Jedi" lasered home to a whopping 620 million dollars, but flickered out at 43 million dollars in China. Similarly, "Solo: A Star Wars Story," swash-buckled to 213 million dollars in the United States, but burned with a dim 16 million dollars in China.
China clearly doesn't share America's multi-generational love affair with all things Star Wars, the U.S. leading entertainment industry media Variety said.