The zombie flick has been spun as a surprise hit that beat expectations, but it’ll need to take in something like $600 million to break even. So far it has earned $483 million. Think Brad Pitt wishes he had come up with a scene in which brave Chinese helped defeat the zombies?
Every time Hollywood lets costs get completely out of hand, something comes along to save it. In the early 1980s it was videotapes, in the 1990s it was the DVD market. Now it’s China, but unlike the home-video market, China makes specific political demands on films. If “WWZ” is any indication, simply removing negative implications about China isn’t enough: The studios have to go out of their way to paint China in a flattering light.
Which is why “Iron Man 3” was careful to insert extra scenes (seen only in China) featuring a heroic Chinese character, why the 2010 remake of “The Karate Kid” felt like something engineered by the Chinese tourist commission (and karate isn’t even Chinese!), the 2012 “Red Dawn” remake changed its villains from Chinese to North Koreans and the disaster epic “2012” showed China saving the world.
These are merely the first few drops of rain compared to the propaganda hurricane to come, though: China will be the biggest film market on Earth by 2020, according to Ernst & Young projections.