Half-decade in film

Na­tion’s movie in­dus­try booms, co­pro­duc­tions grow

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China, the world’s sec­ond-largest film mar­ket after the United States, has seen both a rise in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the in­dus­try in other coun­tries and stable de­vel­op­ment at home.

Ac­cord­ing to Tong Gang, vice-min­is­ter of the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Press, Pub­li­ca­tion, Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion, China has seen an av­er­age year-on-year growth of up to 30.35 per­cent at the box of­fice in the past five years.

The box of­fice has grown from 17.1 bil­lion yuan ($2.59 bil­lion) in 2012 to 49.2 bil­lion yuan in 2016. The coun­try’s movie in­dus­try has seen stable de­vel­op­ment.

An­nual the­ater vis­its have risen from 466 mil­lion in 2012 to 1.37 bil­lion in 2016. And screens in ur­ban ar­eas have in­creased from 13,118 in 2012 to 41,179 in 2016. The rapid con­struc­tion has made China one of the most al­lur­ing film mar­kets in the world.

An­other change is tak­ing place, with a rise in co­pro­duc­tions with other coun­tries.

Rise in co­pro­duc­tions

Six coun­tries — the high­est record for one year since 2012 — signed film-co­pro­duc­tion treaties with China from Jan­uary to Septem­ber. That makes for 20 for­eign coun­tries cur­rently.

New­com­ers in­clude Rus­sia, Brazil, Lux­em­bourg, Kaza­khstan, Den­mark and Greece.

“The model of co­pro­duc­ing films is de­vel­op­ing very well,” says Tong.

“Chi­nese film­mak­ers have es­tab­lished close re­la­tions with Hollywood’s ma­jor stu­dios. A num­ber of Sino-US film projects are un­der­way.”

Miao Xiao­tian, gen­eral man­ager of China Film Co-Pro­duc­tion Corp, echoes Tong’s views.

The com­pany, founded in 1979, is the sole agency au­tho­rized by China’s top movie reg­u­la­tor to ap­prove co­pro­duc­tion ti­tles.

“The United States is the first and the most ac­tive player to ex­plore an ef­fec­tive for­mula to win Chi­nese au­di­ences,” says Miao.

He says 12 movies, or 16 per­cent of the 73 ap­proved co­pro­duc­tions last year, are Sino-US projects.

China ex­panded the an­nual quota of for­eign movies on the ba­sis of shar­ing box-of­fice rev­enue from 20 to 34 in 2012.

Co­pro­duc­tions, which are treated like do­mes­tic ti­tles and can be re­leased out­side of the for­eign film’s quota pol­icy, have also be­come a chan­nel for for­eign film­mak­ers to make for­ays into the Chi­nese mar­ket.

Be­fore 2015, some 40 co­pro­duc­tions were ap­proved every year. “But 2015 saw a rise to more than 50. That num­ber be­came 73 in 2016,” says Miao.

Such cases in­clude Zhang Yi­mou’s fan­tasy epic The Great Wall (2016), French di­rec­tor Jean-Jac­ques An­naud’s Wolf Totem (2015), DreamWorks’ an­i­mated fea­ture Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016) and Lu Chuan’s na­ture film Born in China (2016).

For some Chi­nese film­mak­ers, co­pro­duc­ing isn’t just about busi­ness but also serves cul­tural ex­change.

Where Has Time Gone, the first co­pro­duc­tion by BRICS coun­tries that will be re­leased in China on Oct 19 ex­em­pli­fies such an ef­fort.

As an an­thol­ogy of five in­de­pen­dent short sto­ries ex­am­in­ing the tit­u­lar theme, the movie is cre­ated by five well-known film di­rec­tors from China, Rus­sia, Brazil, In­dia and South Africa.

Chi­nese film­mak­ers have es­tab­lished close re­la­tions with Hollywood’s ma­jor stu­dios.”

Tong Gang, vice-min­is­ter of the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Press, Pub­li­ca­tion, Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion

Jia Zhangke has par­tic­i­pated in film projects along with film­mak­ers from South Korea and Switzer­land. The BRICS co­pro­duc­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer says he feels proud to lead the project.

“It gives the Chi­nese au­di­ence an op­por­tu­nity to dis­cover the cin­e­matic charms of the coun­tries that they have limited knowl­edge about,” says Jia, who be­lieves Chi­nese the­aters should not only be dom­i­nated by Hollywood block­busters or do­mes­tic com­mer­cial cin­ema.

With a num­ber of cashrich Chi­nese in­vestors and the ex­pand­ing pop­u­la­tion of movie­go­ers, China has trans­formed from an “as­sis­tant’s role” to be­come an equal col­lab­o­ra­tor or even leader in in­ter­na­tional co­pro­duc­tions.

Jonathan Shen, founder of the Bei­jing-based stu­dio Shinework Pic­tures, is among the lat­est film­mak­ers to sense the trans­for­ma­tion. Shoot­ing for his com­pany’s new movie, The Com­poser, has just moved from Al­maty, the largest city in Kaza­khstan, to Yan’an in Shaanxi prov­ince, to film more scenes on Tues­day.

The biopic based on the true story of Chi­nese mu­si­cian Xian Xing­hai is the first Sino-Kazakh film pro­duc­tion that in­cludes Kaza­khfilm JSC, the coun­try’s largest stu­dio, as the part­ner pro­ducer.

Shen says the Kazakh side was very ex­cited upon hear­ing about the project. The movie brought top Chi­nese tal­ent and ad­vanced film­ing ma­chines to Kaza­khstan.

Screening abroad

A long­time am­bi­tion of lo­cal film­mak­ers has been to see Chi­nese films go abroad, and their wish has come true to an ex­tent.

In 2016, the over­seas rev­enue from Chi­nese films hit a record to­tal of 3.83 bil­lion yuan, up 38 per­cent from 2015 and more than triple the 2012 fig­ure, ac­cord­ing to the coun­try’s top sec­toral reg­u­la­tor.

A State-backed project called Chi­nese Films World­wide Re­leases has reached ma­jor the­aters in North Amer­ica, Europe, Asia and Ocea­nia, says Tong.

In next five years, the project will screen 15 do­mes­tic hits every year in more than 100 over­seas cities and es­tab­lish a global dis­tri­bu­tion net­work for Chi­nese movies, adds Tong.

In the last two years, Wolf War­rior 2, China’s high­est­gross­ing film of all time, and The Mon­key King 2, a fan­tasy epic based on the Chi­nese clas­sic Jour­ney to the West, did well abroad, too.

Wei Jingyi, vice-pres­i­dent of lead­ing Chi­nese over­seas dis­trib­u­tor CMC Pic­tures, says Wolf War­rior 2 has so far be­come the most suc­cess­ful Chi­nese movie in Aus­tralia and Sin­ga­pore, and has been sold to some Euro­pean coun­tries, such as the Nether­lands and Aus­tria, where Chi­nese movies are scarcely screened.

Film fes­ti­vals have also be­come a piv­otal place for Chi­nese movies to show abroad.

Around 390 Chi­nese film fes­ti­vals and events were held over­seas in the past five years. Chi­nese films have won 552 in­ter­na­tional awards over the past half decade, earn­ing lo­cal stars, di­rec­tors and pro­duc­ers more at­ten­tion in the world.

But the big­gest chal­lenge seem­ingly still comes from Hollywood.

“Some re­ports show that US films dom­i­nated 67.4 per­cent of the global mar­ket last year, and the fig­ure for Euro­pean movies was 26.7 per­cent,” says Tong.

“Chi­nese film­mak­ers need to make more movies that ap­peal to West­ern au­di­ences and mar­ket them well.”

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

China’s film in­dus­try has wit­nessed rapid growth over the past few years. (From top) Wolf War­rior 2, China’s high­est-gross­ing film of all time. The co­pro­duc­tions Where Has Time Gone, Kung Fu Panda 3,

The Great Wall and Wolf Totem.

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