Comedymay The upcoming Spring Festival is seen as a ‘golden period’ for films. Nine flicks, including seven laugh riots, are slated to premiere on Jan 28. Xu Fan reports.
With theChinese Lunar New Year around the corner, the pre-festival “battle” to capture the world’s most populous movie market is kicking off. The upcoming Spring Festival falls on Jan 28 and expands into a weeklong national holiday, which is seen as a “golden period” for cinemas.
So far, nine films are expected to premiere simultaneously on Jan 28 — a newhigh in recent years. In 2016 the number was three. It was seven in 2015 and five in 2014.
Last year, blockbusters released during the Spring Festival — from Feb 8 to 14 — raked in 3.4 billion yuan ($489 million) in a week, making February the Middle Kingdom’s most glorious moment in film history as China overtook North America to become the world’s largest movie market that month.
So will there be a “miracle” this year to rescue China’s stagnant movie market?
For industry insiders, this year’s Spring Festival week has more significance than just being profitable.
The just-concludedNewYear holiday over Jan 1-3 saw a year-on-year drop of 30 percent in box-office takings, another blow to the sector following the plunge seen over September-December. So, China’s fatigued film market has never been so desperate for a revival.
Meanwhile, except for animated movie Bonnie Bears: Entangled Worlds and author-turned-director Han Han’s second directorial venture, Duckweed, the remaining seven films to be released for Chinese NewYear are all comedies.
Among them is Journey to the West: Conquering theDemons2. The first collaboration in 40 years to unite top directors Tsui Hark and Stephen Chow presents a loosely humorous adaptation of the 16thcentury novel Journey to theWest.
Hark takes the director’s role while Chow is the producer.
Incidentally, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons 1 topped the box-office charts during the 2013 Spring Festival. And Chow’s Mermaid topped the 2016 Spring Festival ticket charts. So industry watchers expect the sequel’s dreamteam duo ofHark andChowwill give the newfilm an added edge.
But doubts about the film persist because of its casting of KrisWu and Lin Gengxin, who have been criticized for their performances.
Among the other comedies is Jackie Chan’sKung Fu Yoga, the first China-India coproduction.
Chan is well known for his he sui pian movies — a Hong Kong tradition — in which are films tailored to mark the Spring Festival, having released Rumble in Bronx on the Chinese mainland in 1995.
And, during the past years, Chan has frequently appeared in movies premiering on the first day of the Spring Festival on the mainland.
But his latest film may not get the kind of response he typically receives, as his action comedy Railroad
and are likely to be the strongest contenders in the festival box-office stakes, there are two other comedies that could be potential challengers.
One of them is comedian Guo Degang’s Top Funny Comedian The Movie, which features Rowan Atkinson, the British actor globally known asMr Bean. The other is The Village of No Return, starring Taiwan actress Shu Qi and award-winning actor Wang Qianyuan in a film that is an unlikely blend of ancient China and sci-fi.
So, what do the analysts and insiders feel about the movies on offer for the Spring Festival viewing?
Jiang Yong, a Beijing-based film critic, says: “Comedy has shown its power in dominating the Spring Festival box office. After all, the festival unites families who want to enjoy this period. We will soon see if the magic works.
“But, fornow, the biggest suspense may not be who the winner is, but whether the festival can rescue the faltering market.”
Wang Changtian, president of EnlightMedia, however, said earlier that the changing market may spur the creative instincts of filmmakers.
“Figures can judge your commercial achievement, but will never measure a filmmaker’s satisfaction. This gives the movie industry a unique charm, and also explains why billionaires like (Alibaba’s Jack Ma andWanda’sWang Jianlin) want to conquer this minefield,” says Wang.
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Clockwise from top left: TopFunnyComedianTheMovie, featuring British actor Rowan Atkinson and Chinese comedian Guo Degang; actor Wang Baoqiang in his directorial debut, BuddiesinIndia; JourneytotheWest:ConqueringtheDemons2, starring Kris Wu; TheVillageofNoReturn, starring Taiwan actress Shu Qi and award-winning actor Wang Qianyuan; Jackie Chan and Indian actress Disha Patani in KungFuYoga; Hong Kong actor/singer Aarif Lee, Amyra Dastur and Miya Muqi in KungFuYoga.