Hollywood

August 2, 2013

China hasn’t paid Hollywood studios since last year

California movie studios haven’t been paid for movies shown in China since late last year, according to an exclusive report by The Hollywood Reporter. This situation only gained wide attention recently because because China will likely become the largest moviegoing market in the world before too long and the studios have been quiet about it because they want to preserve the relationship

The dispute apparently centers on a new two percent value-added tax that the Chinese want the studios to pay. For their part, the studios claim that the additional payment would violate a World Trade Organization agreement that was made just last year between the U.S. and Chinese goverments.

According to the Hollywood Reporter estimates: Warner Brothers is owned about $31 million for Man of Steel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Jack the Giant Slayer; Sony is due about $23 million for Skyfall and After Earth ; Paramount would be owed roughly $30 million for Into Darkness, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Jack Reacher; Disney’s Iron Man 3 made more than $121 million in China, which would mean a return of more than $30 million for the studio, while Oz the Great and Powerful would mean about $5 million in payments.

Several other movies are in he middle of their run, and some studios are still owed money for 2012 titles as well. For example, Fox hasn’t received payment for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, a check that’s expected to earn about $23 million.

Movies are, of course, one of California’s primary exports, and in a country where bootlegging and copyright infringement is commonplace, it is difficult to understand China’s justification for withholding payments. If the situation was reversed, and California suddenly decided to stop payments for Chinese manufactured goods, it is hard to imagine that it would be considered acceptable by the Chinese. This seems like a case where China is using its market size leverage to an unfair advantage, and it is certainly something trade officials and policy makers should keep an eye on.

Filed under China, Hollywood, Media and Entertainment by

January 16, 2010

China says Google censorship will not affect trade – but should it?

China has unilaterally declared that their depute with Google over censorship and strong evidence of government sponsored hacking will not affect U.S. Trade relations, but do they get to make that call?  

“Any decision made by Google will not affect Sino-U.S. trade and economic relations, as the two sides have many ways to communicate and negotiate with each other,” Chinese government spokesman Yao Jian told a news briefing in Beijing.

Well of course the two sides have many ways to communicate with each other – that is not the point. If one party to a trade agreement censors and blocks the content of the other party, then of course it should it should be a trade issue.  In the tit for tat world of diplomacy, if they block the content from one of our companies, then shouldn’t we block one of theirs?

California buys a huge amount of Chinese imports, but they don’t by nearly as many of our exports. One of our strongest industries in the movie industry – but only 20 foreign films are even allowed to be shown in that country each year. The rest of the movies we produce here are simply pirated (i.e. stolen) there, Can you imagine if we said to China, “we will only allow the products from 20 of your manufacturers in our country each year”. Now they are blocking, and possibly even attacking, one of California’s other great industries – Internet services.

It is not at all disrespectful to China to expect our government to respond to blocking and censorship with reciprocal actions that affect Chinese companies. That is how a mature trade relationship works. Mr. Yao Jian has it wrong. This is exactly the kind of thing that should affect trade and economic relations – this is a trade issue.

UPDATE: Evidence that the Obama Administration may be looking at these blocking and censorship issues from a more sensible “fair trade” perspective, might be found in a speech Secretary of State Clinton plans to give on the issue on Thursday. From a column by Andrew Ross in today’s San Francisco Chronicle:

“The Internet is integral to the international trading system,” said Ed Black, CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, who is scheduled to meet with Clinton on the matter this week. “China cannot limit the free flow of information and still comply with its international trade obligations.” “You can’t lecture the Chinese on human rights,” said another industry executive. “You won’t get anywhere with that. So, it’s best to treat it as a trade issue.”

Should the administration go that route, it will enlarge the can of U.S.-China worms already growing around the latter’s increasingly protectionist economic policies. “Greater control of the Internet is part of a wholesale tightening up of the Chinese economy,” said an executive with a high-tech trade organization that is also due to meet with Clinton. “It’s about protecting domestic industries and pushing indigenous innovation. But they’re doing it in blatantly discriminatory, brazenly unfair ways.”

Filed under China, Hollywood, Internet, Opinion by

December 28, 2007

Chinese slap three month ban on Hollywood films

Blatant pirating of American-made films is rampant in China, but now even the highly restricted legal distribution and “quota system” of these products is being scaled back. As reported in Variety:

In its most drastic measure ever against Hollywood, Chinese authorities have banned the release of American pics for at least three months. Ban began Saturday and will continue until the end of February at least, but Chinese sources say it could continue until May.

Central-government order came from echelons higher up than the State Administration for Film Radio and Television or the Film Bureau, which normally handle movie industry policy and application. Ruling likely emanated within the Propaganda Ministry. The Asian and Chinese arms of the studios have not been given any release slots in the first two months of 2008.

U.S. studio distribution execs had no comment, but speculation is that the ban will last until after the Chinese New Year celebration in early February. Key factors in the decision are said to be disagreements with U.S. trade policy and the recent success of American pics at the expense of local films.

Distribs have noted privately that the Chinese government often changes the blackout periods on a whim. Normally, the majors would by now have had approval for films that qualify under the quota system, which permits 20 foreign films per year to be released on a revenue-sharing basis. They also report that the Film Bureau’s censorship committee is not even interested in screening their movies.

Four films that would normally have expected to be cleared for release in January or February have been locked out: Disney’s “Enchanted,” DreamWorks’ “Bee Movie,” Paramount’s “Stardust” and Warner’s “Beowulf.”

Filed under China, Hollywood, Media and Entertainment by

October 7, 2007

Hollywood steps in it again, or did they?

ABC Studios is taking heat for a comment made by one of the characters in it’s popular “Desperate Housewives” series. The controversial scene occurred when character “Susan” – played by actress Teri Hatcher, tells her doctor: “OK, before we go any further, can I check those diplomas? Because I would just like to make sure they are not from some med school in the Philippines.” Filipinos take pride in the quality of their medical professional, so this caused quite a stir. As reported in Global Nation and the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

Many Filipino-Americans found the apology issued by ABC Studios and the show’s producers insufficient. A broad alliance of Filipino-American groups said it wanted the TV network to take concrete steps to correct its mistake, such as holding cultural sensitivity and diversity awareness training for its management and staff. Rico Foz, executive vice president of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, said the group was demanding that the ABC television network immediately edit out the controversial scene… The remarks sparked protests from the Philippine Congress and presidential palace and prompted a letter to the show’s producers from the Philippine consulate in Los Angeles.

State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) also jumped on the opportunity to make some political hay out of the situation and posted this statement on his website:

As a senator who represents the largest Filipino community outside of the Philippines, I am appalled that the producers and writers at ABC found this type of humor acceptable, This desperate attempt at humor is offensive and has no place in our community. Filipinos, including those trained outside of the United States, have made invaluable impacts on the medical field, and should be valued, not disparaged.

According to Global Nation, Senator Yee has urged the television network that produced the show to issue a public apology its next broadcast in addition to the apology it has already issued.

Not so fast Senator, let’s think this one through. What if the studio was purposely showing the shallowness of this character- which was almost certainly their intent. What if the sentiment that “Susan” expressed also sometimes expressed in the real world- however ill informed and uneducated that might be? Do we really want our entertainment in the future to be the most neutral, politically correct material that writers can create?

This incident came to light just days after Paramount was forced to delay the release of Kite Runner- but that was involving a rape scene that could have exploded ethnic violence. This is just a scene about a mildly bigoted airhead in a nighttime soap opera. It doesn’t rise to the level of where any kind of self censorship should be considered. It could even be argued that ABC Studio’s gave the Philippines medical industry and professionals a chance to assert themselves.

Filed under Hollywood, Media and Entertainment, Opinion, Philippines by

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