Fans in for treat as pro­duc­ers move to ex­ploit op­por­tu­nity

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By XU­FAN

World of Warcraft fan Yan Feng has had a replica of Frost­mourne, one of the online game’s most pow­er­ful weapons, in his Bei­jing apartment for years.

But, de­spite hav­ing spent 1,000 yuan ($154) then to buy the sword on e-com­merce site Taobao, all Yan got was pi­rated copy.

Ex­plain­ing why he opted to buy the fake, Yan, who’s been fas­ci­nated by the game for more than a decade, says: “There were only 1,000 of­fi­cial pieces made glob­ally and they sold out very quickly. Also, it was not easy to buy one in the Chi­nese main­land then.”

The good news for fans like him now is that for the up­com­ing movie Warcraft, based on Bliz­zard En­ter­tain­ment’s game, a wide va­ri­ety of mer­chan­dise will be avail­able to fans in China.

The movie will hit main­land the­aters on June 8.

Around 100 movie-themed prod­ucts, from mo­bile phone shells to um­brel­las, are cur­rently avail­able from online stores and cine­mas here.

With the growth of China’s movie in­dus­try, the mer­chan­dise sec­tor is set to see a huge up­swing.

China, which grew to be the world’s sec­ond-largest movie mar­ket in 2012, saw huge box­of­fice growth, up 48.7 per­cent year on year in 2015.

Mean­while, de­spite in­dus­try sources pre­dict­ing that China will over­take the United States to be the world’s top movie mar­ket by 2017, its mer­chan­dis­ing sec­tor lags far be­hind theUS.

Fig­ures re­ported in the do­mes­tic me­dia show that while box-of­fice re­ceipts now ac­count for more than 90 per­cent of China’s movie in­dus­try rev­enues, the fig­ure for the US is around 20 to 30 per­cent.

The rest of the money comes from re­lated sec­tors, such as mer­chan­dise, theme-park tourism and li­cens­ing of the char­ac­ter’s im­age.

Ex­press­ing op­ti­mism about the fu­ture of the mer­chan­dise sec­tor, Kelvin Hou, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Mtime, China’s largest movie mer­chan­dise com­pany, says: “China’s movie in­dus­try is scal­ing up, which is good for the movie mer­chan­dise sec­tor.”

Mtime, which is also a pop­u­lar online plat­form of­fer­ing movie in­for­ma­tion, re­views and tick­ets, is among the few Chi­nese firms that can ob­tain copy­right au­tho­riza­tions from Hol­ly­wood’s “Big Six”.

It is also the only agent au­tho­rized to sell Warcraft mer­chan­dise in the Chi­nese main­land.

Giving de­tails of how the mer­chan­dis­ing busi­ness works, Hou says that ma­jor Hol­ly­wood stu­dios usu­ally start de­vel­op­ing movie-re­lated mer­chan­dise al­most as the script is be­ing writ­ten.

In con­trast, most Chi­nese film­mak­ers take up the pro­duc­tion of mer­chan­dise as the pre­miere nears or af­ter the movie has gar­nered some mea­sure of pop­u­lar­ity, which gives them very lit­tle time to de­sign and pro­duce high­qual­ity prod­ucts.

Typ­i­cally, it takes at least 60 days to come up with a prod­uct, which has artis­tic merit and con­nects with the film. But Chi­nese film­mak­ers, most of whom use the mer­chan­dise to pro­mote their films, spend a few weeks or less on de­vel­op­ing the prod­ucts, says Dai Dai, a movie mer­chan­dise man­ager with lead­ing tick­et­ing app Weip­iao.

Sep­a­rately, Chi­nese movie watch­ers pre­fer to buy rel­a­tively cheap items.

Also, un­like fans abroad for whom col­lect­ing movi­ethemed mer­chan­dise is a se­ri­ous hobby, few Chi­nese fans do this, says Dai.

But changes are ap­par­ently tak­ing place in China’s boom­ing movie mar­ket, mainly pushed by the coun­try’s grow­ing num­ber of mid­dle-class movie­go­ers, and theird­e­mand for high-qual­ity, of­fi­cial mer­chan­dise.

More than 6,000 cine­mas with 32,000 screens China saw up to 1.26 vis­its in 2015.

Mean­while, speak­ing of the shift to­ward mer­chan­dis­ing, Rao Shuguang, the sec­re­tary­gen­eral of the Chi­nese Film As­so­ci­a­tion, told the 2016 Bei­jing In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val re­cently that “China’s movie rev­enues will see a shift from re­liance on the box of­fice to more di­verse sources.”

In­dus­try sources also say that the emer­gence of do­mes­tic film fran­chises will also boost Chi­nese mer­chan­dise pro­duc­tion.

Sev­eral years Chi­nese films se­quels.

But, in the past two or three years, the pro­duc­ers of­someof the high­est-gross­ing do­mes­tic films, such as Mon­ster Hunt and Mon­key King: Hero Is Back, have an­nounced that se­quels are in the pipe­line.

The fran­chises mean that the mer­chan­dise re­tains con­tin­u­ing rel­e­vance and will at­tract more buy­ers, saysHou.

To un­der­stand how mer­chan­dis­ing across bil­lion ago, pop­u­lar rarely had is still a nascent busi­ness in China, one has only to look at the Mon­ster Hunter ex­am­ple.

The pro­duc­ers of the film— to date the sec­ond high­est­gross­ing film in China — did not re­al­ize there was a mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­nity wait­ing to be ex­ploited un­til toys re­sem­bling the pro­tag­o­nist mon­ster be­gan to be sold online.

Now, hav­ing learned a les­son, Mon­sterHunter’s pro­ducer Bill Kong has said that his stu­dio has part­nered with the China Film Group to de­velop mer­chan­dise, two years ahead of the se­quel.

How­ever, de­spite the op­por­tu­nity that mer­chan­dis­ing of­fers, piracy re­mains a ma­jor source of con­cern.

And China will not be able to fully de­velop its mer­chan­dise sec­tor un­less a sound sys­tem to pro­tect copy­rights is es­tab­lished, says Shao Zheng, founder of Lu­miere Pavil­ions, a cinema in­vest­ment­com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in the con­struc­tion and op­er­a­tion of high-end cine­mas in China.

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