US-China Trade War Hits Hollywood’s Film Industry

Donald Trump
WILKES-BARRE, PA - AUGUST 2, 2018: President Donald Trump portrait of his gazes toward the audience of a campaign rally for Congressman Lou Barletta. (Evan El-Amin /

The United States and China trade dispute is bleeding over to affect Hollywood’s film industry.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese regulators have significantly slowed down the approval process for independent movies imported from the United States. As a result, there is mounting tension between Hollywood and one of the most important foreign markets.

Moreover, the amount of capital coming out of China from America’s film industry has diminished, according to the WSJ. As a result, Hollywood is now in the middle of the same trade disputes that are affecting farmers and tech companies.

“Things have just ground to a halt,” said Kirk D’Amico, chief executive of Myriad Pictures, a Los Angeles production and distribution company, told the Wall Street Journal.

ARGENTINA BUENOS AIRES NOVEMBER 2018: G20 2018 Group of Twenty Meeting flag waving in against blue sky, close up. (railway fx /

A temporary deal was made during the G-20 this weekend in Buenos Aires. The United States postponed a plan to increase tariffs on Chinese goods, but the two countries still have to work out the details of the deal. Consequently, Hollywood producers are left puzzled in questionable territory.

About China’s film industry

The China-US trade dispute is a new reality. The United States’ foreign policy on trade with China is now affecting Hollywood. China’s box office is the second largest in the world, just behind the United States and it is expected to become the world’s largest in the next few years. With China’s decision to stop independent movies from coming into the country could spell significant implications on the film industry, especially when producers are unable to retrieve a return on investment.

China’s growing streaming market

Moreover, Chinese companies such as Alibaba and Tencent Holdings have purchased content they can stream on Chinese smartphones.

“It’s the biggest, most massive place for growth, so when it takes a left turn, it affects all of our planning,” Strath Hamilton, co-founder of TriCoast, an independent production and distribution company in Los Angeles, told the Wall Street Journal.

China’s minimum guarantees

China’s government has made it more difficult for American studios to import their movies into the country. Over the past year, Chinese distributors have added fees known as minimum guarantees, which Chinese distributors pay to release a film.

“There doesn’t seem to be anyone at a high-enough level [in the U.S.] to talk the regulators through the difference between a minimum guarantee and mailing out $15 million in a tax-avoidance scam,” one executive said told the Wall Street Journal.

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