The 2017 Movies That China Loved and America Hated

Hollywood is relying more and more these days on international audiences — and the big bucks they earn

by Zachary Leeman | Updated 04 May 2017 at 9:31 AM

Movies are becoming less and less American. As the foreign box office becomes increasingly important to studios’ bottom lines and distributors navigate the uncertain and ever-changing ways of streaming, countries such as China have become places that films and their backers are catering to more and more.

This means many that bigger studio releases are forced to put an emphasis on action, simple dialogue, and moral dilemmas that don’t offend any certain region.

In this country, people support art immensely in their spare time.

Many of the world’s best and most influential cinema has come out of America, whether it was the dark dramas of the ’70s such as “Taxi Driver,” “Apocalypse Now,” and “Dirty Harry,” or the independent releases of the ’90s, forged by self-taught filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith.

What makes this reality a little sad is that China will soon outpace America as the number-one outlet for movie releases, even though America for so long has been the last frontier for the arts.

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Although many of these movies have been influenced by waves of cinema in France or Japan, the best cinema has always belonged to America and been culturally American to the core. After all, this is a country where the people support art immensely in their spare time — and there is an unequaled right to free speech and expression.

Now a communist country where government controls the distribution and release of the arts may knock America off its perch in the realm of film.

For proof of this, look no further than the majority of Hollywood's current output. Mid-budget movies have all but disappeared, now only appearing in the form of television shows or occasional independent films on Netflix. Bigger and bigger blockbusters with little or no resemblance to reality that put an emphasis on international ideals and simple concepts are thrown at us at the box office.

Just take a look at these three 2017 movies that China loved and American audiences hated.

1.) "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter." This was the sixth installment in its franchise, and American audiences had grown a little tired of the B-movie series. Yet the films have only grown bigger and bigger overseas.

"Final Chapter" earned only $26.8 million in the U.S. (on a $40 million budget), but its China gross was $159.7 million. Why these movies are released in America anymore is anyone's guess. Difference in grosses: $132.9 million.

2.) "XXX: The Return of Xander Cage." Many critics wondered in their reviews of  this film why a studio would feel the need to make a second sequel to a 2002 action movie that most people barely remember. The first film, "XXX: State of the Union," bombed at the box office, and not too many people were clamoring to see star Vin Diesel do much more than look "fast and furious" on screen.

However, producers knew what they were doing ... in China, at least. This $85 million movie came and went in the U.S. with a "nothing" gross, essentially, of $44.9 million. In China, it was a different story. Diesel's special effects extravaganza went on to earn a whopping $164.1 million there. While domestic audiences spoke loud and clear and said they didn't want more "XXX" movies, the studio may feel inclined to force another upon us thanks to the film's strong China earnings. Difference in grosses: $119.2 million.

3.) "The Great Wall." This is actually a prime example of how movies are changing and trying desperately to appeal to two very different movie markets and cultures. The fantasy film is set in China's most recognizable location (The Great Wall of China) and had an almost entirely Chinese cast. For Americans, Matt Damon led with a bad hairdo.

Americans could see right through the $150 million film's trickery and forced execution — and rewarded it with only $45.2 million at the box office.

Chinese audiences were far more accepting and spent $171 million on the picture. Difference in grosses: $125.8 million.

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