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"Iron Man 3" features a Hollywood super hero, a Malibu mansion, and Air Force One makes an appearance. This is as American as it gets.
But the upcoming blockbuster is tweaking its tone to appeal to Chinese audiences, making a second version just for them. China is now the world's second-largest movie market behind the U.S., passing Japan last year with nearly $3 billion in box office revenue. Hollywood is taking notice, relying on experts like Robert Cain for guidance.
"I really encourage filmmakers in Hollywood to think about China to develop stories that will appeal there . . . and to really go after it," says Cain, president of Pacific Bridge Pictures. Cain has worked with American and Chinese film industries for 20 years. "It's such a big growing market if all you did was make movies for the Chinese market, you could do very well in the next few years."
According to Marvel, the Chinese version of "Iron Man 3" will include new footage featuring one of China's top actresses, Fan Bingbing, and put a heavier emphasis on Chinese elements in the film.
The process of tailoring for international crowds can be daunting.
"There's censorship and also checks for suitability for a Chinese audience," said Cain. They "want to make China look good on film."
But studios see dollar signs in the differences.
In "Red Dawn," an invading army was originally Chinese, but the enemy was later changed, frame by frame, to be North Korean for Chinese audiences. A Chinese dinner battle scene in "Men in Black 3" was cut entirely from the version released on the Mainland. Even Brad Pitt's upcoming zombie thriller "World War Z" had to tailor its script. At first, the film's fictional un-dead epidemic originated in China. But that plot point had to be changed because China is actually where American blockbusters are coming back to life.