China Predicts ‘Total Collapse’ of Hollywood After Indiana Jones Flop

Indiana Jones (Disney/LucasFilm)

The Chinese government propaganda newspaper Global Times dramatically predicted a “total collapse of the box office” for Hollywood in the near future as a result of its movies’ “repetitive” plots and “dated” American values.

The latest death knell for the life of the American film industry in the eyes of the Global Times was the dismal theater debut of the fifth installment in the Indiana Jones franchise, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. The film, starring 80-year-old Harrison Ford still in the titular role, debuted in both America and China this weekend. The Chinese Communist Party bans most American movies from being featured in Chinese theaters, so studios often seek approval only for the films expected to make the most money at China’s box office, the world’s largest.

Indiana Jones was, according to Variety, a tremendous failure in China. The magazine documented a $2.5-million profit for the movie this weekend, about $900,000 on Friday and smaller numbers on Saturday and Sunday because theaters, seeing a lack of public interest, removed it from their screens. The Global Times claimed the movie’s revenue was at about $2.6 million in China by Monday.

The Global Times predicted that Indiana Jones 5 would likely “be another loss-making venture for Disney this year,” as the movie cost nearly $300 million to make.

“If production costs and theater revenue sharing are taken into consideration, the film would need to earn at least $800 million to break even,” the publication noted. “In comparison, the first film in the series, released in 1981, had a budget of $20 million and grossed $389 million worldwide.”

The Chinese newspaper, which has for years predicted an end to Hollywood as the world’s dominant film market and its replacement by Chinese communist propaganda films, claimed that “dated” American values and exhausted franchises had bored audiences across the globe.

“[T]raditional adventure movies are on the decline, with predictable plotlines and action sequences that significantly reduce their appeal,” the Global Times asserted. “Even the introduction of new elements like time travel and changing history has become repetitive for audiences.”

The government outlet objected to protests that “China was suppressing Hollywood blockbusters,” asserting that, instead, Chinese people simply are not interested in Hollywood’s offerings.

“Hollywood blockbusters, especially those released after the pandemic, have visibly declined in quality. Beneath the flashy special effects, the dated universality of the US’ prevailing values is becoming more apparent,” the article continued. “As Hollywood becomes increasingly out of touch and indulges in ‘political correctness’ without knowing when to stop, classic IPs must be squeezed bone-dry before they are discarded.”

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

“This has led to severe audience fatigue with Hollywood films and forebodes the total collapse of the box office,” the Global Times concluded.

Indiana Jones 5 is the latest in a series of Hollywood offerings failing to attract significant attention in China. The Global Times also noted that The Flash, which premiered in June, is also on track to lose money in China. In May, Disney’s The Little Mermaid suffered a similar fate, posting meager presale numbers and eliciting a scolding from the Global Times for “white leftists” who claimed that racism against the black American actress in the lead role, Halle Bailey, was dissuading Chinese audiences from watching the movie. Last year, Avatar: The Way of Water – expected to make about $120 million during its opening weekend in China – garnered only about half of that, $57.1 million.

Halle Bailey attends the Australian premiere of "The Little Mermaid" at State Theatre on May 22, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage)

Don Arnold/WireImage

Even films that attempt to overtly court the sensibilities of the Chinese Communist Party are failing Hollywood. One of the most prominent examples of this was Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan in 2020, which was filmed in occupied East Turkistan – home to the ongoing Uyghur genocide – and featured a thank-you note in its credits for the police forces executing the genocide. The film also underperformed at the Chinese box office, earning only $6.7 million on its opening weekend. The Global Times complained the film was insufficiently “patriotic.”

“Chinese netizens also disagreed on the values expressed in the movie, saying that the traditional Chinese story had a patriotic theme, which was changed to a story of soldiers blindly protecting a king,” the Global Times claimed at the time, without elaborating.

Instead of Hollywood’s offerings, the Chinese government is aggressively promoting its homemade propaganda films, many of them tedious, low-production war or action films featuring Americans as villains. Thanks to extreme public pressure from Beijing, one of these films, 2021’s The Battle at Lake Changjin, became the highest-grossing Chinese movie of all time, making $913 million in theaters cumulatively. The film tells the story of a battle in which Chinese communist soldiers allegedly defeat American forces fighting against North Korea in the Korean War. The North Koreans, which began the war by invading South Korea, appear in the film as the heroes, while the Americans and anti-communist South Koreans appear as cartoonish enemies.

The tedious, nearly three-hour film features poor acting and low-quality special effects:

Similar films finding success, with government approval, at the Chinese box office include Homecoming, a film about the slow-moving world of Chinese diplomats, and Born to Fly, a near carbon-copy of Top Gun: Maverick featuring Chinese fighter pilots. The film’s release date was abruptly delayed last year, reportedly as a result of its poor-quality special effects:

Making similar complaints in 2021 to those in this week’s column, the Global Times predicted, “If Hollywood continues down this road, it will dig its own grave.”

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