A blockbuster film is coming from Quentin Tarantino in July, 2019, and the film has something in common with others being created in the USA. Tarantino got help from interests in China to make his film. The controversial filmmaker isn’t alone when it comes to money from Asia.
If you’ve ever produced any work of art, you understand how critical money is. After all, everyone needs shelter and food. Filmmakers probably feel the sting of underfunding worse than those in any genre. A musician can gig. A writer can speak and be paid by groups. A photographer can sell prints. A visual artist can sell a painting. All of those commercial exchanges are immediate—you get paid when you sell or gig. In film, it’s different.
There’s a longer time between the creation of the product and the realization of profits from it. The bigger the film, the more difficult the challenge of financing can be. When it comes to corporate backed films, funding is a challenge regardless of celebrities involved. The money crunch for the industry in the US, courtesy of Americans dodging the theater for streaming and on-demand films, has created partnerships many of us never thought we’d see.
Right now, China may be Hollywood’s BFF.
Tarantino’s film is packed with celebrities—Brad Pitt (still a hunk), Leo DiCaprio (still on the carbon soapbox but still flying when he feels like it), Timothy Olyphant (I miss ‘Justified), Al Pacino (Viva ‘Scarface’), Bruce Dern (incredible artist), and Dakota Fanning (plays one of Manson’s women). Also starring is the late Luke Perry who passed recently—this was one of his final projects.
The film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, features characters portrayed by Pitt and DiCaprio seeking success in Hollywood in the late 1960s. One element in the film involves the Charles Manson murders. Those brutal killings freaked out a nation not yet desensitized to gore and the bloodshed Tarantino loves to splash on screens.
The Hollywood Reporter revealed Tarantino got some funding from financial interests in China:
“Quentin Tarantino’s much anticipated Charles Manson-era movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, is getting a major chunk of its financial backing from China.
Beijing-based studio Bona Film Group has stepped in as a co-financier of the film alongside Sony’s Colombia Pictures, Yu Dong, CEO of Bona, told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday.”
Tarantino isn’t alone. Last year Time Magazine reported:
“Money is also flowing the other way. Looking to offload cash abroad as the yuan has devalued, Chinese companies have snapped up Hollywood studios, theaters and production companies. Last year Dalian Wanda Group, the Chinese real estate and entertainment conglomerate, announced it was buying Legendary Entertainment studio — producer of blockbusters like Jurassic World — for $3.5 billion, adding to an entertainment portfolio that includes AMC Entertainment, the U.S. theater-chain giant, and Odeon & UCI, the biggest in Europe. In the fall, Wang Jianlin, Wanda’s founder and China’s richest man, struck a deal with Sony Pictures to finance films and also agreed to a $1 billion acquisition of Dick Clark Productions, which produces the Golden Globes and American Music Awards.”
Many Americans are unaware of China’s significant involvement in the US entertainment industry, and most Americans are unaware this involvement will not only affect US box office revenue. It will also impact US culture and politics.
Next time a celebrity’s socio-cultural pronouncements please you or infuriate, depending on your political bent, bear something in mind. Money really does talk.
DiCaprio tweeted an image of Tarantino’s new film poster recently. As I said earlier, Brad Pitt is most definitely still a hunk.
(Kay B. Day/March 19, 2019)