Hollywood studios under investigation for bribery in China: report

Bribe

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an investigation into a number of major Hollywood studios over accusations of bribery, reports Reuters. The alleged bribes were supposedly paid to authorities in China’s government, as a way for the studios to show more movies in the country, whose movie market is booming.

The studios who have reportedly received letters from the SEC include 20th Century Fox, Disney, and DreamWorks Animation, according to an unnamed source. The letters apparently contained questions about “inappropriate payments” and how the studios dealt with “certain government officials in China.”

The SEC refused to commented on the matter. The studios have not commented.

As the middle class in China has grown, so has the movie market. However, it has been difficult for Hollywood to make many inroads in China because the government-run China Film Group limits the number of foreign films allowed to play in the country to 20 per year. This recently changed, however, after China’s upcoming leader, Xi Jinping, visited Washington. Following that visit, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Krik announced that China would allow 14 Hollywood films to be exempt from the limitation, and be allowed to play in a variety of formats, including IMAX, 3D, and 2D, throughout the country.

In addition, DreamWorks hatched its own deal with China Film Group, which involves launching its own production studio in Shanghai, along with some Chinese entertainment companies.

Expanding in China is clearly an important goal for the movie industry, which saw box office sales drop 5 percent last year to $10 billion, while ticket sales in China skyrocketed 35 percent to more than $2 billion.

As Mike Masnick at TechDirt points out, it is interesting that Hollywood see so much potential in China, which is supposed to be the piracy capital of the world. Clearly, people in China are choosing to see movies if given the opportunity, even if they have cheaper options available.

“Once again, this seems to demonstrate why the problem is not piracy,” writes Masnick. “If consumers are offered what they want in a reasonable manner, they are more than willing to pay.”

Of course, once could argue that more people are willing to pay because, for the first time in their lives, they can afford to go see movies in the theater; the activity is still novel, while it is simply old news here in the U.S.

Regardless of the ironies in the story, it would seem that studios under investigation will have to answer some difficult questions in the coming months. The SEC and the Department of Justice have recently ramped up their investigations of bribery, which is illegal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — the same law that landed WalMart in hot water (and caused it to lose $10 billion in market value on Monday) following an article from The New York Times that exposed a high-level bribery scandal in WalMart’s Mexico subsidiary.

Image via Jiri Hera/Shutterstock

Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (November 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Deals

You can now watch soccer games online with streaming service ESPN+

Launched back in April, ESPN+ is a direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service. For a mere $5 a month or $50 per year, you can have access to the best sports content available including multiple soccer leagues.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Business

‘Fantastic Beasts’ wins the weekend with underwhelming debut

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald won the weekend box office, but its big debut was a bit underwhelming, with the lowest opening weekend and worst reviews of any Harry Potter film so far.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this fall with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: ‘Alita: Battle Angel,’ ‘Detective Pikachu,’ and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. That's why we round up the best ones for you. This week, it's new trailers for cyberpunk adventure Alita: Battle Angel, game adaptation Pokémon Detective Pikachu…
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: The Coen brothers ride again and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Nnarcos: Mexico, and more.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Home Theater

What’s new on Netflix and what’s leaving in December 2018

Our complete list of what's new on Netflix for December 2018 and which titles will be removed will help you catch up on your bingeing, and also ensure you don't miss any titles heading into the streaming ether.
Home Theater

What’s new on HBO and what’s leaving in December 2018

Whether you're a cable lifer or a staunch cord cutter, there's never been a better time to get down with premium TV. Follow us to find out what's new on HBO each month. December 2018 brings sci-fi hit Ready Player One and the drama Icebox.
Web

Canceling Amazon Prime is easy, and you might get a refund

Don't be intimidated. Learning how to cancel Amazon Prime is easier than you might think. You might even get a partial or full refund on the cost, depending on how much you've used it. Check out our quick-hit guide for doing so.