Star Wars: The Force Awakens Rey and BB-8

Whether you like it or not, China is going to be playing a massive role in deciding what kinds of movies Hollywood makes in the years ahead. Already the one of the largest markets for film on the planet, the nation of 1.3 billion people is looking to surpass the United States within just a few years when it comes to the number of people paying to see movies. It’s the market that every studio has been tracking and trying to appease. Being a hit in China can make all the difference in the world, especially if your movie underperforms elsewhere.

Unfortunately for American movie studios, China has strict policies about the number of foreign films that it lets play in its cinemas every year, and even stricter rules about the kind of content it allows to be presented on screen. That means certain movies cannot be played at all, ever. It also means that even massive blockbusters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens have to fight for a Chinese release.

Learn more about the Star Wars China news after the jump.

The news that Star Wars: The Force Awakens still hasn’t been approved for release in China comes to us via The Wrap and it came to them via IMAX Entertainment President Greg Foster. Right now, he’s “hopeful and optimistic” that J.J. Abrams‘ massively anticipated sequel, which many analysts think has a shot at shattering box office records, will be released in China some time January 2016.

The Chinese market is huge for IMAX, who will soon have more of their large format screens there than in North America, but it’s huge for everyone. Every major studio wants their film to open in China and for good reason. Ant-Man was doing solid box office elsewhere, but China made it into a bonafide international success. If Terminator: Genisys gets a sequel, it will be thanks to the Chinese audiences that went out in droves to see it. Even the now-delayed Pacific Rim sequel only got a shot because of massive Chinese box office.

However, the Chinese government only allows 34 foreign films to be released in their cinemas each year, as part of an initiative to protect their local film industry. You have to have something big and special to land one of those slots. Unfortunately, each of those slots was already taken by the time The Force Awakens rolled around, hence the proposed January 2016 release.

It’s inevitable that Star Wars will open in China, and Chinese audiences will most likely have their chance to see the film just a few weeks after most of the world. That’s just trivia. The real meat of this story, the thing that needs to be considered and pondered over by all movie fans, is how the rush to get in on this market may affect the movies you watch every day. If studios are willing to tinker with scripts just to appease Chinese censors, then we are looking at a future where the big movies being made by the American movie industry are not being made for you – they’re being made for the billions of moviegoers across the world.

The sky isn’t falling. Movies aren’t necessarily getting worse. But consider this food for thought. The landscape of the big, studio release is changing. We certainly live in interesting times.

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