Recent reports that an unidentified Chinese company will buy the fabled Hollywood film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer (MGM) set off alarm bells in my head and brought back memories of the anti-Japanese paranoia in the US a generation ago.
Now imagine that the new Chinese owners assume control of MGM. They will acquire the distribution responsibilities for a film right of Ronald Reagan's Cold War play book: Red Dawn, a $75 million modern remake of a 1984 flick that concerned a Soviet invasion of America. However this time the invaders are the People's Liberation Army and the enemy is China.
Red Dawn was set to open this Wednesday for the box-office rich Thanksgiving weekend, when studios traditionally unleash some of their biggest guns of the year. However, after the bankruptcy was filed, the movie was pulled and there is no new launch date.
What will the new Chinese owners decide to do about this film? They can do what Sony did, say that they would not interfere with MGM's film content, and reschedule Red Dawn whose release will unleash a tsunami of anti-Chinese feeling on the most emotional level to an audience already predisposed to devour its toxic content.
Alternatively, they can pull the film and be faced with a rash of unfavorable publicity about censorship, free speech, kowtowing to the Chinese leadership and on and on and on, as well as high profile lawsuits from investors.
When I worked at ABC Television, I faced many difficult decisions, but none like this one. If a Chinese firm buys MGM, they're going to be stuck with this and many other dilemmas. Good luck to them, if they have the courage and skill to handle it.
I am also worried that MGM's purchase by a Chinese company will further intensify growing anti-Chinese sentiments back home, and present China with a no-win dilemma of epic proportions.
MGM is the studio that gave us such notable classics as Gone with the Wind (the highest grossing film of all time adjusted for inflation), The Wizard of Oz and lately the James Bond series of 22 feature films.
Once a studio giant in recent years MGM suffered a series of financial reversals and earlier this month filed for bankrupt-cy. The Chinese company, reported to be the Shanghai Film Group, is said to be preparing a bid to acquire most of MGM's equity in exchange for assuming its massive debt of roughly $4 billion.