China’s box office is poised to become the world’s biggest. What does that mean for Hollywood—and America’s soft power?
中国的电影票房即将晋升全球第一。这对好莱坞以及美国的软实力意味着什么?

红毯 Red carpet-书迷号 shumihao.com

In America, by contrast, a film’s takings at the theatre are usually eclipsed by what it earns through television rights, merchandising, video-game licensing and so on. It therefore makes sense for American studios to produce films and send them straight to streaming, as Disney is doing with “Mulan” in many markets. Disney’s films are in effect merely the intellectual-property engine that drives a much larger machine. Before social-distancing edicts obliterated businesses that rely on crowds, it made an annual operating profit of $2.7bn directly from its films and another $6.8bn from the parks, cruises and products that piggyback off them. These profits should return after the pandemic.
相比之下,在美国,电影的票房收入往往不及电视播放权、周边商品、电子游戏许可等收入。因此对美国电影公司而言,把电影做出来后直接送上流媒体同样可行,正如迪士尼在很多市场上对《花木兰》的处理。迪士尼的电影实际上只是一个知识产权引擎,驱动着一台大得多的机器。在社交隔离措施摧毁那些依赖人流量的生意前,迪士尼每年从其电影中直接赚得27亿美元的营业利润,此外还有68亿美元来自主题公园、邮轮和周边产品。疫情过后,这些利润应该会恢复。

That ought to put American studios in a better position than Chinese rivals to keep telling stories in a world of declining cinema attendance—a trend that long predates covid-19. The average American visited the cinema 3.5 times last year, down from five times at the turn of the century. In China ticket sales have begun to slow as more people plump for local streaming services such as iQiyi and Tencent Video.
因此,在一个影院上座率不断下降的世界里——在疫情爆发前很久这一趋势就已经出现——美国电影公司应该比中国对手处于更有利的条件来把故事继续讲下去。去年,美国人均观影次数是3.5次,低于在世纪之交时的5次。在中国,随着更多人转向爱奇艺和腾讯视频等本土流媒体服务,电影票销售已经开始放缓。

Project Power
超能计划

What the shift to streaming means for American soft power is less clear. One possible effect is that East and West will consume less culture in common. At the cinema audiences often soak up stories from all over the world. As they turn to streaming they could do the same; Netflix is replete with local productions. But they more often consume content tailored to their country—and in China, almost exclusively so. The cultural and commercial tussle for global imaginations goes on for now. But one day it may see Americans and Chinese mutually retreat to their own, national, small screens instead.■
观众转向流媒体对美国软实力有何影响还不太清晰。一种可能性是东西方消费的共通的文化会变少。在电影院,观众常常吸收来自世界各地的故事。他们转向流媒体后仍可能如此:奈飞上就有大量来自不同地方的制作。但他们更多时候还是会选择那些迎合本国口味的内容——而在中国就更几乎完全如此了。这场对全球想象力的文化与商业之争目前还在继续。但也许有一天,结局会是美国人和中国人各自退守到本国的小屏幕前。