have ruined some movies with great potential,” says Yin Hong, a professor with Tsinghua University and a renowned film critic.
As more and more people are going to cinemas and are presented with numerous works on the screen, moviegoers have matured enough to refuse to pay for less interesting, or even bad, ones, says Zhang.
Ticket subsidies have been central to the China film market since 2014, when online cinema booking became popular.
Ticket sellers have invested heavily in lowering prices to attract more users and encourage more people, especially those from small cities and towns, to go to the cinema.
These subsidies have now been cut, and people appear reluctant to pay higher prices.
“Ticket subsidies were worth nearly 5 billion yuan in 2015, accounting for 10 percent of total revenue,” says Wang Changtian, chairman of EnlightMedia.
What’s more, authorities are closely watching ticket sales as a number of box-office frauds came to light earlier this year. In March, the distributor of martial arts movie Ip Man 3 admitted to having fabricated box-office figures. Other distributors were also reported to be buying tickets of their own films in addition to “stealing” box office from other films.
If fraud cannot be ruled out, the quality and reputation of Chinese films will be compromised and ultimately people will not want to watch them, says Shi Chuan, vice president of Shanghai Film Association.
The cooling of the film market may be a warning for movie makers and investors, reminding them that only by making high-quality films can they expect acclaim and money at the same time.
“In a healthy movie industry, well-made works with good stories rule,” says movie critic Zhang Guopei.
The warning signs are also an opportunity for the industry to make changes, exploring different genres and cultivating talent in post-production and marketing.
Film director LuChuan was satisfied last year with his 3-D action-thriller Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe, in spite of the poor box office, as it was a rare chance for Chinese visual effects artists to learn from theirHollywood counterparts.
Both China Film Co. Ltd. and Shanghai Film Co. Ltd., the country’s two leading State-owned film producers and distributors, went public in Shanghai early this month, a stimulant that may generate a new round of growth in industry.
Martial arts movie IpMan3, starring Donnie Yen, causes a stir after the film’s distributor admits to having fabricated box-office figures.