Xu Fan

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

The Chi­nese box of­fice fell to a decade low in earn­ings for a hol­i­day sea­son dur­ing this Na­tional Day hol­i­day year’s week.

Data from the China Film Ad­min­is­tra­tion show the box of­fice made 1.9 bil­lion yuan ($275 mil­lion), de­clin­ing 27.58 per­cent year-on-year, from Oct 1 to 7.

Com­pared to 77.2 mil­lion movie tick­ets sold for the Oc­to­ber hol­i­days in 2017, the num­ber for this year was 54 mil­lion, a 30 per­cent drop.

Spring Fes­ti­val, the Na­tional Day hol­i­day week and sum­mer va­ca­tion are usu­ally the most lu­cra­tive box-of­fice sea­sons in China. But not all was gloomy. This year’s over­all box-of­fice haul reached 50 mil­lion yuan on Oct 4, 47 days ear­lier than when the same fig­ure was met last year, cre­at­ing a record of us­ing the short­est span to sur­pass the amount of money.

With star power and an in­trigu­ing plot, Project Guten­berg, which has Hong Kong ac­tors Chow Yun-fat and Aaron Kwok, topped the hol­i­day chart this year with 628 mil­lion yuan in the first week of Oc­to­ber. Com­edy troupe Mahua FunAge’s fea­ture film, Hello, Mrs Money, came in next with 408 mil­lion yuan, fol­lowed by Zhang Yi­mou’s mar­tial-arts film, Shadow, at 386 mil­lion yuan.

Di­rected and writ­ten by Felix Chong, the ac­claimed Hong Kong veteran of crime thrillers, Project Guten­berg is also the high­est-rated film of all the new films con­tend­ing for the hol­i­day box-of­fice this year.

On the coun­try’s most pop­u­lar re­view web­site, Douban, the story about coun­ter­feit­ing US dol­lars earned 8.1 points, while Shadow got 7.5 points and Hello, Mrs Money re­ceived 5.1 points. Shadow has man­aged to sal­vage Zhang’s film­mak­ing rep­u­ta­tion since his last flop, The Great Wall, the big­gest-bud­get Sino-US pro­duc­tion boast­ing a cast in­clud­ing Matt Damon, Jing Tian and Andy Lau.

But seem­ingly a dis­ap­point­ment to China’s the­ater op­er­a­tors, who gave Hello, Mrs Money the most screen­ings on the eve of the Na­tional Day box-of­fice “bat­tle”, the film adapted from Mahua FunAge’s pop­u­lar stage show of the same ti­tle failed to tickle the au­di­ence’s funny bone. While all three movies pre­miered on Sept 30, Hello, Mrs Money oc­cu­pied 39.9 per­cent of the to­tal hol­i­day screen­ings. Shadow got 24.7 per­cent and Project Guten­berg re­ceived 20.5 per­cent.

For most in­dus­try watch­ers, Mahua’s for­mula to cre­ate com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful come­dies prob­a­bly has lost its charm due to the shift­ing taste of the do­mes­tic au­di­ence.

Last year, the box-of­fice cham­pion for the Na­tional Day hol­i­day week was Mahua’s hit stage show adapted to film, Never Say Die, which earned 1.32 bil­lion yuan in the Oc­to­ber hol­i­day.

“Hello, Mrs Money is about a man who dis­guises him­self as a woman. But ac­tor Huang Cailun’s makeup — in­tended to make him look like a charm­ing ‘ lady’ — is ob­vi­ously un­con­vinc­ing to the au­di­ence,” says Wang Xiaoyang, a film critic in Bei­jing.

“And some of the jokes the film are a bit lousy.” in

But for Rao Shuguang, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the China Film As­so­ci­a­tion, the box-of­fice de­cline in this hol­i­day week is also due to an in­crease in on­line ticket prices, fol­low­ing the new pol­icy. In the past, au­di­ences could eas­ily watch tent­pole films at cheaper presold rates, with the cheap­est be­ing 9.9 yuan per per­son. But now most in­ter­net ser­vices sell tick­ets at 35 yuan or more.

“Af­ter years of rapid ex­pan­sion, China’s film in­dus­try has en­tered a new era to ad­just its di­rec­tion,” Rao says. “Un­like the past, when an A-list cast mem­ber and ag­gres­sive mar­ket­ing were use­ful to ticket sales, word-of-mouth praise has played a more de­ci­sive role to in­flu­ence movie­go­ers’ in­ter­est. It will en­cour­age do­mes­tic film­mak­ers to cre­ate qual­ity works and lead the in­dus­try on a bet­ter track.”

Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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