In Hollywood, China's censors increasingly call the shots

iron-man-3.jpgRather than stand up to China's state censors, Hollywood studios are playing ball to ensure access to the billions of dollars that await films that become hits in the world's most populous country. A story in the New York Times says the cooperation includes letting China's censors vet scripts, visit sets here in the U.S. and give suggestions on other creative decisions. A Paramount Pictures remake of "Top Gun" recently got the silent treatment from Chinese officials — possibly because American fighter pilots were to get in dogfights with Chinese MIGs. "The ensuing silence was finally recognized as rejection," says the NYT story.

Hollywood as a whole is shifting toward China-friendly fantasies that will fit comfortably within a revised quota system, which allows more international films to be distributed in China, where 3-D and large-format Imax pictures are particularly favored.

At the same time, it is avoiding subject matter and situations that are likely to cause conflict with the roughly three dozen members of a censorship board run by China’s powerful State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, or S.A.R.F.T.

In addition, some studios are quietly asking Chinese officials for assurance that planned films, even when they do not have a Chinese theme, will have no major censorship problems....

Studios are quickly discovering that a key to access in China is the inclusion of Chinese actors, story lines and locations. But the more closely a film examines China, the more likely it is to collide with shifting standards, unwritten rules and unfamiliar political powers who hold sway over what can be seen on the country’s roughly 12,000 movie screens.

Hollywood executives "are only now becoming familiar with the censorship board and its workings," says the story by Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes of the NYT Los Angeles bureau. "A recent count by one of their advisers found that the board has 37 members, including representatives from government agencies and interest groups, like the Communist Youth League and the Women’s Federation, along with filmmakers, academics and professional bureaucrats."

Photo from "Iron Man 3" Zade Rosenthal/Walt Disney Pictures


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