Box-of­fice stum­ble

Re­duced ticket sub­si­dies and cliched sum­mer of­fer­ings not lur­ing au­di­ences to Chi­nese movie the­aters. Xin­hua re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE FILM -

China’s box-of­fice rev­enue stood at 4.5 bil­lion yuan ($676 mil­lion) in July, down 18 per­cent year on year, the first de­crease in five years. Why is it that this sum­mer hol­i­day, tra­di­tion­ally the high sea­son for cine­mas, has seen poor ticket tak­ings?

As re­cently as the first quar­ter of 2016, the mar­ket per­for­mance was ex­cel­lent, tak­ing in a record 60 bil­lion yuan this year, and on track to over­take North Amer­ica in 2017.

Chi­nese cine­mas raked in 6.87 bil­lion yuan in ticket sales in Fe­bru­ary, with the monthly box of­fice over­tak­ing North Amer­ica for the first time.

China’s box of­fice in 2015 reached 44 bil­lion yuan, up 48.7 per­cent from 2014, ac­cord­ing to the film bureau of the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Press, Pub­li­ca­tion, Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion.

Though to­tal rev­enue hit 24.7 bil­lion yuan in the first half of the year, up 22 per­cent, sales turnover from April to Junewa­sonly 9.9 bil­lion yuan — a 32-per­cent de­crease from the first quar­ter this year and 700 mil­lion yuan less than the same pe­riod last year.

Film com­pa­nies had high hopes for this sum­mer; but the turnout was dis­ap­point­ing. The first half of Au­gust only saw ticket sales of over 2 bil­lion yuan, down from al­most 3.6 bil­lion yuan in the same pe­riod last year.

In­dus­try watch­ers think that Chi­nese au­di­ences are sim­ply get­ting more picky in spend­ing their money.

Out of 13 do­mes­tic movies re­leased in Au­gust, six were ro­mances.

“A sin­gle, and at the same time, tra­di­tional genre dom­i­nat­ing the­aters has lost its ap­peal. Au­di­ences ex­pect some­thing dif­fer­ent,” says Zhang Yiwu, a lit­er­a­ture pro­fes­sor of Pek­ing Univer­sity.

Movie­go­ers are bored and have lost in­ter­est in over-ex­ploited lit­er­ary adap­ta­tions and youth-idol dra­mas. Though bit­terly crit­i­cized, idol film Si­lent Sep­a­ra­tion still eas­ily grossed 900 mil­lion yuan in 2015. In stark con­trast, Sum­mer’s De­sire, a film of the same genre that opened in July this year, only took 8 mil­lion.

“Boast­ing and ex­ag­ger­a­tion, lack of struc­tural di­ver­sity and weak story-telling 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.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Mar­tial arts movie IpMan3, star­ring Don­nie Yen, causes a stir af­ter the film’s dis­trib­u­tor ad­mits to hav­ing fabri­cated box-of­fice fig­ures.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.