Oc­to­ber no longer so golden

Medi­ocre ‘ block­busters’ drag down ticket sales, though ex­perts say a slow­down in the Chi­nese movie mar­ket was pre­dictable, re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - NEWS CAPSULE -

For years a Golden Week was a time to cel­e­brate a box-of­fice bo­nanza, but the Na­tional Day hol­i­day is see­ing its gilt edge fade.

This year’s just-con­cluded hol­i­day, from Oct 1 to 7, raked in a dis­ap­point­ing 1.58 billion yuan ($237 mil­lion), down nearly 15 per­cent com­pared to the same pe­riod last year, ac­cord­ing to the live tracker China Box Of­fice.

It marks the first such slump in eight years, since the hol­i­day be­came a lu­cra­tive pe­riod for ticket sales in 2008.

The hol­i­days in the past three years — which saw rev­enues come in at 617 mil­lion yuan in 2013, 1.09 billion yuan in 2014 and 1.85 billion yuan in 2015 — once pushed the yearon-year growth av­er­age up to around 70 per­cent.

De­spite 15 movies pre­mier­ing close to or dur­ing the hol­i­day, only four do­mes­tic films be­came block­busters, ac­count­ing for 92.3 per­cent of the box-of­fice tally.

Op­er­a­tion Mekong, based on the true events that saw 13 Chi­nese sailors bru­tally killed by a Myan­mar drug ring in 2011, topped the charts by bring­ing in 530 mil­lion yuan.

Earn­ing 466 mil­lion yuan for a No 2 fin­ish was the ro­mance drama I Be­longed to You, adapted from best-sell­ing author Zhang Ji­a­jia’s name­sake short-story col­lec­tion.

Author- turned- di­rec­tor Guo Jing­ming’s fan­tasy epic L.O.R.D Leg­end of Rav­aging Dy­nas­ties came in third at 274 mil­lion yuan, fol­lowed by the ac­tion com­edy Mis­sion Mi­lano star­ring Andy Lau at 188 mil­lion yuan.

Scores on re­view sites sug­gest a lack of qual­ity plagued the col­lec­tive hol­i­day of­fer­ings.

Op­er­a­tion Mekong was the only ti­tle to win ac­claim among the top four, with a high score of 8.2 points of 10 on China’s top fan-rat­ing site, Douban.

Di­rec­tor Dante Lam, a crime-thriller mas­ter in Hong Kong, smartly in­ter­weaves po­lice pro­tag­o­nists’ hu­man­ity strug­gles into fast car chases, gun fights and bomb ex­plo­sions.

Most reviews clearly felt Op­er­a­tion Mekong can ri­val big Hol­ly­wood films in sto­ry­telling and ac­tion sce­nar­ios.

But there was no such ap­plause for the other three: All failed to reach the thresh­old score of 6 points.

I Be­longed to You was crit­i­cized most for its un­re­al­is­tic, ex­ag­ger­ated de­pic­tion of true love, re­ceiv­ing only 5.6 points.

Mean­while, L.O.R.D high­lights its all-CGI (com­puter gen­er­ated im­agery)-made char­ac­ters and sets in na­tion­wide pro­mo­tions as a first in Chi­nese film his­tory. All the stars wore dig­i­tal equip­ment to trans­form their fa­cial ex­pres­sions and ac­tiv­i­ties on screen.

How­ever, many movie­go­ers com­plained that the scenes look like an out­dated web game, and the char­ac­ters are not like real hu­mans with their too-per­fect physiques. Even driven by a huge fan base, the hit novel-adapted L.O.R.D just scored 4.1 points.

The score for Mis­sion Mi­lano is the low­est of the four top-gross­ing hol­i­day films. With a cu­mu­la­tive 3.6 rat­ing to date, Hong Kong vet­eran Wong Jing’s lat­est di­rec­to­rial work again shows his weak­ness in sto­ry­telling, plus the film has stereo­typed twists and puns, con­cur a num­ber of on­line reviews.

An in­ter­est­ing fact: Oper­a­tionMekong was in third place early in the week, but climbed to the top on the fourth day, thanks to a surge of praise in cy­berspace.

“Chi­nese au­di­ences are be­com­ing more picky about movie qual­ity,” says Jin Zhichao, research di­rec­tor with Ent­group, an en­ter­tain­men­tre­search com­pany.

“They are not blinded by stars,” he ex­plains, not­ing that on­line re­ac­tion is over­tak­ing the mar­ket­ing in­flu­ence to shape box-of­fice re­sults.

The di­ver­sity of moviewatch­ing plat­forms — in­clud­ing tele­vi­sion and stream­ing sites, as well as short­ened the­ater re­leases are also af­fect­ing box-of­fice per­for­mance, ac­cord­ing to Jin.

“Most view­ers clearly know what kind of movies they must watch in a the­ater for the bigscreen ef­fect, but the com­par­a­tively low-bud­get dra­mas they would opt to watch on TV,” Jin says.

“In the past, it took three months to see a new movie be­come avail­able on TV. But now the in­ter­val is cut to a few weeks.”

Tele­vi­sion boxes and stream­ing sites mostly charge 5 yuan for one new film, much less than a the­ater ticket, he adds.

Al­though the hol­i­day slide may be dis­ap­point­ing for the box of­fice, it’s not a sur­prise.

Af­ter grow­ing at about 30 per­cent for sev­eral years and see­ing a rise of 48 per­cent in the first half of this year, a turn­ing point has come.

The sum­mer sea­son, usu­ally last­ing from June to Au­gust, saw a 7 per­cent rev­enue fall com­pared to last year. Lat­est fig­ures show ticket sales con­tin­u­ing to lan­guish: The third quar­ter saw a year-on-year slump of 14.9

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