Outside of North America, Chinese movie-goers now account for the highest ticket sales chunk on the planet; last year alone Chinese audiences made for $2.7 billion in revenues and replaced Japan as the biggest international cinema spot on the globe. So, with that in mind, certain Hollywood studios are now prepared to take rather extraordinary measures to make sure they get some screen time in the prime moviegoing real estate that is The Middle Kingdom.
The brains behind "Iron Man 3," for instance, are busy creating a special version of the film (!!) exclusively for release in China.
As detailed by Vulture, Marvel and Disney originally intended to earn what's called "co-production status" with China on the film — having worked alongside the Beijing-based DMG Entertainment and shooting certain scenes in the capital city itself. However, that's becoming a much more difficult avenue to pursue, so instead the studio will be making an additional version of the movie built just for China's standards.
Not only will Disney add new footage featuring locales of note — "significant Chinese elements," as Marvel's rep said in a statement — but it'll also add popular native actress Fan Bingbing to the film somehow. No word yet on how many minutes will be added, exactly, but Marvel said that it hopes the move serves as a "springboard for future collaboration with China’s talented stars and its growing film and television industry [and the] cast and filmmakers look forward to bringing 'Iron Man' back to China."
Interestingly enough, Marvel/Disney isn't the only house trying to ascend the Great Wall. According to Yahoo! Movies, Paramount reworked a certain plot point in its "World War Z" to ensure some summer yuan intake, too.
Readers of Max Brooks' novel of the same name will remember that "Patient Zero" — the first known case of pandemic infection — was thought to be a young boy playing near the Yang-Tze River, but they shouldn't expect to see that plot point carry over into the film. Chinese distributors likely wouldn't be too enthused about putting money behind a flick that puts the origin of a disaster on their home turf. Instead, another country will be fingered as the original break-out point for the zombie disease.
Stanley Rosen, director of USC's East Asian Studies Center, finds the studio move to be wise because "[j]ust the fact that China somehow is the origin of a pandemic with the food safety problem and the SARS epidemic, that would never get approved in China." He also suspects that this is just a drop in the bucket of what's to come: entire movies specifically made for Chinese audiences.
Just remember: When it comes to the box office (and, apparently, nerdy obsession over alternate cuts of your favorite new releases), look to the east.