In Asia’s World City, a push for “localism”

Hong Kong is days away from legislative elections that are unlikely to alter the city’s political power balance but certain to highlight residents’ alienation from their mainland overseers.

I have an essay titled “China’s Hong Kong Dilemma” in the current issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek in which I ponder the curious rise of Hong Kong’s “independence” movement. In fairness, to call this group a “movement” probably overstates its significance. There is zero chance China’s leaders will permit Hong Kong, which the mainland reclaimed from Britain in 1997, to break away and set itself up as some sort of separate, sovereign entity. Hong Kong relies on China for 70% of its water, most of its food and half its trade. For good measure, Beijing keeps 6,000 People’s Liberation Army troops garrisoned here.

Pro-independence leaders are a fractious and quixotic bunch–nearly all of them idealistic twenty-somethings, fresh from university. To date, their rallies have drawn crowds of no more than a few thousand. But, as with protests here two years ago, a heavy-handed response by Hong Kong’s mainland-controlled government has succeeded in transforming a loose collection of fringe dissenters into high-profile political heroes. Continue reading “In Asia’s World City, a push for “localism””

In China, Hollywood tries to think outside the box office

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Did you miss Warcraft, the big-budget fantasy flick, when it came to your neighborhood cinema this summer?  If so, you’re probably…an American.

U.S. critics trashed Warcraft even before it hit theaters (“Pricey and preposterous,” sniffed Variety). Online reviewers pelted it with Rotten Tomatoes.  Despite a budget of $160 million, Warcraft grossed $47 million in North America and disappeared almost as soon as it opened.

But don’t cry for Warcraft‘s producers, Legendary Pictures. In China, Warcraft raked in $220.8 million, the third-highest gross of any movie released in mainland cinemas this year.

And now, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Warcraft has tapped the China market for even more money. The Journal says Beijing-based online video network PPTV has agreed to pay $24 million for “post-theatrical” rights to the movie — double the value of any previous online video deal for a single movie in China.

Hollywood hopes similar deals will follow. US studios have discovered success in China can give a huge boost to a film’s global box office. (Lest you doubt that, check out the chart below, which lists eight major Hollywood productions that grossed more in China than they did in North America.) But ticket sales at Chinese theaters, after booming last year, have slumped over the last three months. So American studios are scrambling to discover new revenue streams beyond the box office. Many think video-on-demand could be the China market’s next big thing. Continue reading “In China, Hollywood tries to think outside the box office”