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I’ve always thought Will Smith was America’s greatest export, what with being the world’s biggest box office draw and all, but I never thought China would agree with me. After threatening to ban all American films from release for the next three months, it seems the Chinese government has relented and will allow The Pursuit of Happyness, Smith’s 2006 blockbuster, to hit screens in January.
Like many political decisions in this country, the threatened ban was never entirely clear or entirely official. The only statement The Hollywood Reporter could get on the release of Happyness was pretty terse: " 'Happiness Knocks at the Door' (the film's Chinese title) is coming in January. We are planning what day to release it," Yuan Wenqiang, China Film Group Import Export Co. deputy manager, said in a telephone interview.
The Reporter also notes, though that U.S. films make up most of China’s film economy, with all of the top four films from last year coming from this country. Only 20 non-Chinese films are allowed in the country every year to begin with, and the government has always taken strong steps to protect Chinese films. This move, though, angered U.S. studios and threatened to endanger the U.S.-China trade agreements. This is all a way of saying that Hollywood ain’t happy, and when Hollywood ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
Making Happyness the first release is probably just a coincidence, but coming off of I Am Legend’s phenomenal worldwide success, I kind of like it as proof that Will Smith can actually solve anything. Look for him next to be organizing peace talks in the Middle East, or tracking down Osama bin Laden with merely the power of his charisma and his super-sensory giant ears.