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Playing to the World’s Biggest Audience

Playing to the World’s Biggest Audience: The Globalization of Chinese Film and TV

Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 353
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  • Book Info
    Playing to the World’s Biggest Audience
    Book Description:

    In this provocative analysis of screen industries in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, Michael Curtin delineates the globalizing pressures and opportunities that since the 1980s have dramatically transformed the terrain of Chinese film and television, including the end of the cold war, the rise of the World Trade Organization, the escalation of democracy movements, and the emergence of an East Asian youth culture. Reaching beyond national frameworks, Curtin examines the prospect of a global Chinese audience that will include more viewers than in the United States and Europe combined. He draws on in-depth interviews with a diverse array of media executives plus a wealth of historical material to argue that this vast and increasingly wealthy market is likely to shake the very foundations of Hollywood's century-long hegemony.Playing to the World's Biggest Audienceprofiles the leading Chinese commercial studios and telecasters, and delves into the operations of Western conglomerates extending their reach into Asia. Advancing a dynamic and integrative theory of media capital, this innovative book explains the histories and strategies of screen enterprises that aim to become central players in the Global China market and offers an alternative perspective to recent debates about cultural globalization.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94073-4
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: Media Capital in Chinese Film and Television
    (pp. 1-28)

    At the turn of the twenty-first century, feature films such asCrouching Tiger,Kung Fu Hustle, andHero—each of them coproduced with major Hollywood studios—marched out of Asia to capture widespread acclaim from critics, audiences, and industry executives. Taken together they seemed to point to a new phase in Hollywood′s ongoing exploitation of talent, labor, and locations around the globe, simply the latest turn in a strategy that has perpetuated American media dominance in global markets for almost a century and contributed to the homogenization of popular culture under the aegis of Western institutions.¹ These movies seem to...

  6. 1 The Pan-Chinese Studio System and Capitalist Paternalism
    (pp. 29-46)

    In 1966, Run Run Shaw reached the peak of his movie career as the head of the biggest and most influential motion picture studio in Asia. A reporter forLifemagazine, inquiring about the secret of Shaw′s success, turned for explanation to the movie mogul′s daily regimen, which began at 6 a.m. with a spare breakfast of noodles and tea followed by qigong exercises at his expansive ocean-front mansion situated in the rugged headlands above Clearwater Bay in Hong Kong. Invigorated, Shaw would then set to work reviewing movie scripts before leaving at eight o′clock for a five-minute ride in...

  7. 2 Independent Studios and the Golden Age of Hong Kong Cinema
    (pp. 47-67)

    The folklore of Chinese capitalism is replete with heartbreaking tales of those who work for a family enterprise and, despite their achievements and dedication, can never rise to the innermost circle of authority because they aren′t members of the family that owns the business. Many stay on despite their frustration, but others leave to begin companies of their own, often in the same industry. Ironically, one reason that the patriarchs of Chinese enterprise rarely invite nonfamily staff members into the inner circle hinges on their suspicions that one day their trusted employee might depart, taking not only his or her...

  8. 3 Hyperproduction Erodes Overseas Circulation
    (pp. 68-84)

    By the middle of the 1980s it was difficult for those in the Chinese movie business to imagine anything but good fortune as they looked to the future.¹ In Hong Kong, loyal audiences pushed per capita cinema attendance to stratospheric heights, engendering envy among exhibitors around the world. Citizens of the territory went to the movies on an average of once a month, outstripping their counterparts in North America and Europe by a factor of three or four. Hong Kong films also proved to be reliable box office draws in overseas markets, performing especially well in Southeast Asia, and in...

  9. 4 Hollywood Takes Charge in Taiwan
    (pp. 85-108)

    On the east side of Taipei directly behind City Hall is one of the largest real estate development projects in the history of the Taiwan. Within an area of six city blocks, investors and urban planners put together an ambitious real estate project that now boasts the world′s tallest building, Taipei 101. Without exception, gleaming steel, glass, and marble structures dominate this landscape, inhabited by businesses that consider themselves integral components of global capitalism. At the very center of the project is the China Trust Bank, established by Koo Chen-fu, who up until his death in 2005 was renowned as...

  10. 5 The Globalization of Hong Kong Television
    (pp. 109-132)

    In most countries of the world, broadcasting emerged as an adaptive response to the centrifugal tendencies of media distribution, especially with regard to the transnational influence of Hollywood entertainment. When public service media were first launched in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s, governments invested in radio partly as a foil for the growing popularity of American music and movies. During the 1960s, as television swept into Asian territories such as Taiwan, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, government regulators expressed similar concern about the productive and marketing power of Hollywood, but this time they pointed the finger at Hollywood′s vast syndication...

  11. 6 Strange Bedfellows in Cross-Strait Drama Production
    (pp. 133-150)

    Although Hong Kong was the undisputed capital of the Chinese commercial media production during the 1990s, Taiwan was still the largest single market for movies, music, and television. After the end of martial law in 1987, however, new challenges and opportunities arose in Taiwan when the government relaxed restrictions on media, spurring the emergence of dozens of fiercely competitive new television companies. Unlike the martial law era, during which three state-controlled channels monopolized the airwaves, the new media economy offered the average viewer more than a hundred cable channels, featuring a broad range of programming and political opinions, making Taiwan...

  12. 7 Market Niches and Expanding Aspirations in Taiwan
    (pp. 151-175)

    In 1990, it would have been difficult to imagine that in little more than a decade newly emerging cable services would completely erase the dominant status of Taiwan′s three terrestrial broadcasters. For most cable systems during the 1980s were little more than mom-and-pop operations that skirted the boundaries of the law. Someone would buy a satellite dish and, to defray costs, would hook up neighbors to their system. Some started informal movie channels, renting videotapes at local shops and playing them for subscribers, while others began to produce their own offerings, especially political shows that became quite popular during the...

  13. 8 Singapore: From State Paternalism to Regional Media Hub
    (pp. 176-191)

    International airport arrivals in Singapore involve one of the smoothest and most efficient border crossings anywhere in the world. Unlike most other ports of entry in Asia, where immigration officials sit behind high desks in military-style uniforms, Singapore′s multicultural immigration staff, attired in colorful tropical garb, greets passengers while sitting eye-level beside a low counter, casually scanning passports into an unobtrusive database.

    ″Welcome to Singapore,″ a fifty-something woman of Indian ethnicity greets me. ″Would you like some candy?″ she asks warmly, taking my passport with one hand while gesturing with the other toward a well-stocked bowl of sweets in colorful,...

  14. 9 Reterritorializing Star TV in the PRC
    (pp. 192-210)

    Dramatic changes in Chinese media began as early as the mid-1980s with liberalization and reregulation in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, as well as the People′s Republic of China. In the PRC the introduction and diffusion of television technology proceeded at a frenetic pace. In 1980, only a tiny percentage of homes owned TV receivers, but by mid-decade a majority of urban households had purchased their own sets. This enthusiastic embrace of the new medium was commonly linked to Deng Xiao-ping′s ″Four Modernizations,″ and therefore many observers anticipated that it was only a matter of time before PRC media, like...

  15. 10 Global Satellites Pursuing Local Audiences and Panregional Efficiencies
    (pp. 211-228)

    Dramatic changes in Singaporean media policy during the 1990s helped to make Singapore Cable Vision one of the most robust broadband services in Asia, delivering dozens of channels from around the world and providing high-speed Internet access to homes and businesses throughout the island. Just as important, the very same policies encouraged global satellite services to establish their regional headquarters in the ″media hub of Southeast Asia.″ HBO was the first to arrive in 1993, followed by MTV, Sony, ESPN, Discovery, and Disney. In all, thirteen out of sixteen global media divisions established a headquarters and uplink facility in the...

  16. 11 The Promise of Broadband and the Problem of Content
    (pp. 229-244)

    In the years immediately following the sale of Star TV, Richard Li turned down an offer from his father to take charge of Hutchison Whampoa. Instead, he gathered up his share of the Star proceeds—an estimated $200 million—and used it to launch an enterprise that he boldly christened Pacific Century. Working with many of the same staffers who had helped him launch Star TV, Li established a venture capital firm focusing on the cutting-edge industries of Asia, especially communication. Despite Pacific Century′s exuberant PR, its strategy seemed vague; the company dabbled mostly in real estate rather than media,...

  17. 12 From Movies to Multimedia: Connecting Infrastructure and Content
    (pp. 245-268)

    Although this is an age of changing technologies and corporate conglomeration, it′s fitting for us to return to where we began, the Chinese movie business, which, like its Western counterpart, is the locomotive for the commercial entertainment industry in Asia. Feature films deserve special attention because they are singular media events with a very narrow time frame in which to succeed. Movies are hailed as triumphs or failures within the first two weeks of release, requiring intensive promotional campaigns. Moreover, the distinctive artistic challenges posed by feature filmmaking and the concerted publicity efforts behind such projects are reasons why most...

  18. Conclusion: Structural Adjustment and the Future of Chinese Media
    (pp. 269-290)

    One of the primary aims of this book is to encourage readers to think spatially about the history and performance of media industries. As mentioned at the outset, a prominent, though often unstated, preoccupation of international media studies is the question of location: Where in the world should we expect to find concentrations of media production? Where in the world do the products of these industries circulate? And what does that circulation tell us about relations of power among various cultures and societies? Initially, international media studies approached these questions through the prism of nationalism, exploring how particular states developed...

  19. Industry Interviews
    (pp. 291-294)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 295-312)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 313-324)
  22. Index
    (pp. 325-341)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 342-342)