Chattanooga Now Mind Coffee: U.S. films edited to reach foreign audiences

Chattanooga Now Mind Coffee: U.S. films edited to reach foreign audiences

August 3rd, 2017 by Staff Report in Chattnow Movies

Last weekend, the No. 1 movie in the U.S. was "Dunkirk," which nabbed about $28 million and has earned about $102 million since its release two weeks ago. That's a lot of cash in 14 days.

It's got a long way to go to reach the biggest movie of the year so far. The live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast" has racked up $504 million. "Wonder Woman" is second at about $395 million, and right behind her is "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" at $387 million.

The same pattern is consistent almost worldwide: "Dunkirk," "Wonder Woman," "Spider-Man: Homecoming," "Beauty and the Beast," "Despicable Me 3" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" show up in the Top 10 pretty much everywhere. They're among the top-grossing movies in India, the fourth-largest movie market in the world; the United Kingdom, the fifth; and Japan, the third.

Despite the general commonalities in each country, cultural differences crop up, especially in China, the world's second-largest market. There, the No. 1 movie in 2017 is "Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back," a fantasy/adventure/comedy that has pulled in $84 million. It's a sequel to "Journey to the West: Demon Chapter."

Shawn Ryan

Shawn Ryan

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

"Kung Fu Yoga," an action/adventure/comedy with Jackie Chan, is No. 2 in China, while "Dangal" ("wrestling competition" in English), a biographical sports film, is No. 5.

While India generally accepts Western-made films as is (although the joke is that at least one song must be dropped into a Western film to make it match the Bollywood tradition), that's not the case in China. Alterations must be made to fit the culture and communist government.

For instance, the "Transformers" series is huge there. "Transformers 4: Age of Extinction" earned $1.1 billion in China, more than any film in history. It was deliberately set in China to enhance its appeal.

"Transformers 5: The Last Knight," though, opened in early July and doesn't appear to be headed for such stratospheric heights, dropping 82 percent in ticket sales from its opening Friday to the next. Some say its patently obvious product placement of Chinese brands brought mostly laughs.

Since China is communist, the government also has a hand in the content of films that play there, so a villain who is Asian or based in the "red menace" means major alterations.

These days, international movie grosses are hugely important to U.S.-based film companies, often bringing in more money than America. So while we won't see the edited versions here, expect films from the U.S. to start making even more significant alterations to reach those audiences.

It's all about the money, after all.

Contact Shawn Ryan at

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