China is infamous for its censorship and the censors have struck again, this time against Sony for refusing to remove or edit shots containing the Statue of Liberty in the latest Spider-Man movie, costing the company hundreds of millions in profits.
Films are heavily censored in China. To be incredibly fair the number of foreign films allowed in China has been growing in recent years, however the numbers still remain low. The films that are are allowed in are heavily screened and often altered. One recent example was a complete rewriting of the ending of “Fight Club” so that the cops win.
Sometimes entire scenes are even added to films so that they are more palatable to the CCP. This sort of augmentation can greatly impact the original intention of the filmmaker (though lets be fair I don’t know how much deep, foundation shaking meaning you get from a superhero movie, but hey). If you view films as art this seems tantamount to forcing Frida to put in a Chinese flag and red-crowned crane into ‘Naturaleza muerta con loro y bandera’ if she wanted to display it in China.
The massive market of China, and Hollywood’s generally al dente scruples when it comes to money making, mean that this move was a bit surprising on Sony’s part. It is also somewhat funny that Chinese censors were angry about American patriotism from a Japanese company.
In any case, it is estimated that Sony took up to a $340 million hit on refusing the edit the film. The two previous films had both grossed over $100 million each, with the second movie, “Spider-Man: Far From Home”, made over $200 million. In spite of this move, Sony still made a killing on the latest movie.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is still currently being shown in theaters around the world (and illegally streamed on computers in Chinese apartments) and has already raked in over $1.8 billion at the box office. This puts it in league with some of the top money making movies of all time such as “Titanic” and “Avatar”, with some time left on the board to make even more.
Hopefully this case shows movie makers that they don’t need to compromise their visions or morality to appease authoritarian states. While money will likely almost always come first in Hollywood, they can take solace in the fact that they will still make more money off of one film than the GDP of the Solomon Islands.