In 2015, Chi­nese film­mak­ers stepped out ofHol­ly­wood’s shadow, pro­duc­ing films that set box-of­fice records even as crit­ics say artis­tic merit still lags be­hind, Xu Fan re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. This famed line by Charles Dick­ens has been quoted by many crit­ics to il­lus­trate China’s chaotic movie mar­ket.

As 2015 ends, the say­ing could cel­e­brate the box-of­fice bo­nanza but also mourn the ane­mic re­spect for art.

Fig­ures as ofMon­day show that China’s movie in­dus­try has grossed an as­ton­ish­ing box-of­fice to­tal of 43.3 bil­lion yuan ($6.87 bil­lion), leap­ing nearly 48 per­cent from last year’s 29.6 bil­lion yuan, ac­cord­ing to the en­ter­tain­ment re­search gi­ant Ent­group.

The mar­ket, re­cently pushed by block­buster­sMo­jin: The Lost Leg­end and Mr. Six, may ul­ti­mately ac­cu­mu­late 43.8 bil­lion yuan by the end of this year, predicts Ent­group’s se­nior an­a­lyst Guo Kaixi, in an e-mail in­ter­view with China Daily.

Up 3 per­cent­age points from last year, China now ac­counts for 16 per­cent of the global box-of­fice tak­ings. Around 60 per­cent of this year’s box of­fice has been raked in by more than 500 home­grown ti­tles. The fig­ure was 54 per­cent in 2014.

Mon­ster Hunt (2.44 bil­lion yuan) still holds the ti­tle of the high­est-gross­ing film of all time on the Chi­nese main­land — slightly ahead of Fast and Fu­ri­ous 7 (2.43 bil­lion yuan).

The live-ac­tion an­i­mated block­buster, pro­duced by lo­cal an­i­ma­tors, proves that China has what it takes to beat it­sHol­ly­wood ri­vals.

While 100 mil­lion yuan was a thresh­old to judge a big com­mer­cial win­ner last year, the marker this year be­came 1 bil­lion yuan.

Eight movies, in­clud­ing five made in China, hit the new­stan­dard.

Next to the cham­pi­onMon­ster Hunt, Lost in Hong Kong, a se­quel to the for­mer high­est-gross­ing do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion Lost in Thai­land, takes the sec­ond slot among home­grown ti­tles at 1.61 bil­lion yuan.

The other three Chi­nese block­busters are Good­bye Mr. Loser (1.44 bil­lion yuan), Mo­jin: The Lost Leg­end (1.25 bil­lion yuan since its Dec 18 pre­miere) and Jian BingMan (1.16 bil­lion yuan).

An in­ter­est­ing phe­nom­e­non: All five were re­leased af­ter July and four are come­dies (ex­cept the fan­tasy-ac­tion thriller Mo­jin), which means the lat­ter half of this year has earned a for­tune in laughs.

But their av­er­age score of 6.5 out of 10 on ma­jor movie sites, such as Douban.com and Mtime.com, re­veals the dis­ap­point­ing fact that their mar­ket tri­umph doesn’t equate to re­spected con­tent or par­tic­u­lar artis­tic value.

Mean­while The Im­i­ta­tion Game, Rush and TheMar­tian — de­spite all achiev­ing scores be­yond 8.5— failed to win the hearts and wal­lets of the Chi­nese even as they ran away with Os­car or Golden Globe nom­i­na­tions.

Ex­perts and in­dus­try sources reached by China Daily have di­verse ex­pla­na­tions, but most agree that typ­i­cal Chi­nese movie­go­ers pre­fer tales close to their lo­cal strug­gles and as­pi­ra­tions — ob­vi­ously a cul­tural puz­zle for Hol­ly­wood, half a world away.

Shen Jian, founder of the weekly TV show World Film Re­port, says this year’s high­est-gross­ing movies are more ac­cu­rately tai­lored for the main­land mar­ket, while stars and famed direc­tors are no longer guar­an­tees for big box of­fice.

Zuo Heng, a vet­eran re­searcher at the China Film Archive, at­tributes the frenzy over com­edy to the rapid rise of young movie­go­ers in smaller cities.

The pop­u­lous coun­try had nearly 31,000 screens in around 6,200 cine­mas by the end of Novem­ber, with most of the new ones spread among small and mid-sized cities, do­mes­tic me­dia re­ports say.

While critic Tan Fei finds In­ter­net gi­ants have ex­tended their ten­ta­cles to ev­ery cor­ner of the movie in­dus­try, Zuo crit­i­cizes their over-reliance on in­tel­lec­tual property, say­ing it may de­stroy cre­ativ­ity and orig­i­nal­ity.

IP refers to a well-known pro­duc­tion with the po­ten­tial to grow into a mar­ketable fran­chise, in­clud­ing movie se­quels, TV se­ries, books, com­puter games and mo­bile games, ex­plains Ten­cent Pic­tures’ CEO, ChengWu.

Big-data mon­i­tor­ing to con­trol a movie from script to pro­mo­tion is an­other feat by In­ter­net be­he­moths.

Direc­tors Xu Zheng and Zhang Yibai, both har­vest­ing suc­cess from big-data re­search, have de­fined them­selves as “pro­duc­tion man­agers” aim­ing to please cus­tomers rather than direc­tors.

Based on the growth rates, Ent­group gives an op­ti­mistic forecast for next year, say­ing 2016 may see a record of 60 bil­lion yuan and a sin­gle movie sur­pass­ing 3 bil­lion yuan.

But on Tues­day, Wuer­shan, di­rec­tor of Mo­jin, looked ahead with a dif­fer­ent but old spirit.

“I hope a movie will gain suc­cess just be­cause it’s a good movie, that is a glory be­long­ing to the in­dus­try,” he says.

Con­tact the writer at xufan@chi­nadaily.com.cn


China’s movie mar­ket has con­tin­ued grow­ing in 2015. Some of the big­gest win­ners of the year are (from top) Fa­s­tandFu­ri­ous7, Mon­sterHunt, LostinHongKong and Good­byeMr.Loser.

Mo­jin:TheLostLe­gend, star­ring Huang Bo (cen­ter) and Chen Kun (right), has raked in 1.25 bil­lion yuan ($198 mil­lion) since its pre­miere on Dec 18.

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