China and Hollywood have been frenemies for years. The industry pre-sells movies in foreign markets, including Asia, to help bankroll domestic production. A Chinese investor might also foot a chunk of the budget in exchange for Chinese product placements in story lines. There are exhaustive blog posts devoted to dissecting the incongruous placement of Chinese goods in American films. For example, why does actor Jack Reynor drink a Chinese Red Bull in Texas in the latest "Transformers" installment?
"Is it even available there?" one writer asks.
But the courtship between wealthy Chinese investors and the American film industry is only intensifying.
More Chinese money is flowing into American entertainment. Chinese investment in U.S. entertainment, including film, has grown to around $2.7 billion from 2000 to the second quarter of this year, according to the Rhodium Group, which tracks Chinese direct investment in the U.S. And in the third quarter, there's already been a pickup in Chinese film and media companies opening U.S. shops.
The populous nation's middle class—with many experiencing movie theaters for the first time—is fueling China's appetite for Hollywood fare. By 2022, McKinsey forecasts more than 75 percent of China's urban households will join the middle class, compared to just 4 percent in 2000.
While the threat of pirated content and proliferation of media consumption on mobile devices looms large, there's a desire among Chinese consumers to sit in movie theaters and enjoy middle-class trappings.