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.

China Daily (Canada) - - NEWS CAPSULE -

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.

Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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.

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