China is poised to become the largest theatrical box office in the world. In order to circumvent China’s market access controls and tap the world’s largest potential film market, Hollywood studios have begun engaging in a range of collaborative ventures to access audiences in the middle kingdom. In February 2016, Shanghai-based US-China joint venture Oriental DreamWorks released Kung Fu Panda 3, which dominated the global box office that month. Disney opened its first theme park in China – a USD$5.5 billion investment - merely four months later. Cash-rich Chinese conglomerates like the Dalian Wanda Group have taken major stakes in foreign studios, spurring US government efforts to regulate foreign direct investment in Hollywood, as well as Chinese government concerns about the dilution of Chinese cultural identity. Now the US and China are renegotiating the landmark US-China Film Agreement which expired in February 2017 and had formerly secured 34 slots for foreign films in the Chinese theatrical distribution market leading to a period of significant uncertainty. Even as the Chinese market is increasingly relying on Hollywood studio films to garner large box office outcomes in Chinese theaters, the Chinese government is simultaneously cracking down on other foreign media content. This talk will demonstrate how the growth of China’s media market is transforming Hollywood from the inside out as the two behemoths veer unsteadily between collaboration and competition.
Bio: Aynne Kokas is an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Virginia. Kokas’ research examines Sino-US media and technology relations. Her book, Hollywood Made in China (University of California Press, 2017) argues that Chinese investment and regulations have transformed the US commercial media industry, most prominently in the case of media conglomerates leverage of global commercial brands. Her new project Border Control on the Digital Frontier: China, the United States and the Global Battle for Data Security examines the cybersecurity policy implications of the data trade in the Sino-US relationship. She is a 2017-2018 fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a fellow in the National Committee on United States-China Relations’ Public Intellectuals Program. Her writing and commentary appears regularly in media outlets including the BBC, CNBC, NPR’s Marketplace, The Washington Post, and Wired.