Shang­hai a ta­ble-top­ping box of­fice smash

Shanghai Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Xu Wei

China’s film in­dus­try con­tin­ues to go from strength to strength with fig­ures re­veal­ing a new box of­fice record of 60.98 bil­lion yuan (US$8.88 bil­lion) reg­is­tered for 2018. Shang­hai also topped the na­tion’s city league ta­ble in box of­fice sales and the num­bers of cin­e­mas and movie screens.

Lat­est statis­tics from the State Film Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­vealed there has been a 9 per­cent in­crease in the yearly movie box of­fice grosses since 2017 in China. And by the end of last year the num­ber of movie screens across the coun­try had reached 60,079, up 9,303 from the pre­vi­ous year.

In 2018, box of­fice re­ceipts of home­grown movies rose al­most 26 per­cent to nearly 38 bil­lion yuan, which con­trib­uted to over 62 per­cent of the mar­ket. De­spite the in­flux of Hol­ly­wood block­buster films, a few high-qual­ity domestic pro­duc­tions in var­ied gen­res did emerge to take a dom­i­nant share of the Chi­nese mar­ket.

Among the top 10 high­est-gross­ing movies of 2018, six are home­grown films and four are Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tions. Chi­nese pro­duc­tions — “Op­er­a­tion Red Sea,” “De­tec­tive Chi­na­town 2” and “Dy­ing to Sur­vive” also took the top three places. Each of them reaped over 3 bil­lion yuan. Forty-four domestic films earned more than 100 mil­lion yuan each at the box of­fice. Hol­ly­wood films on the top 10 list in­clude “Avengers: In­fin­ity War,” “Venom,” “Aqua­man” and “Juras­sic World: Fallen King­dom.”

China’s film in­dus­try also main­tains its ro­bust growth in pro­duc­tion. Last year, a to­tal of 1,082 films of di­verse gen­res were pro­duced. Among all the pro­duc­tions, 902 were fea­ture films, 51 were an­i­mated and 57 were doc­u­men­tary films. Ad­di­tion­ally, more Chi­nese peo­ple over 30 years old watched films at the cinema ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by on­line tick­et­ing plat­form “maoy­an­movie.”

So­cial is­sues

Zheng Zhe, a 30-some­thing IT worker, usu­ally checks the scores and re­marks of each new movie on the film and TV re­view web­site Douban, be­fore at­tend­ing screen­ings. He is im­pressed by the in­creas­ing num­ber of in-depth domestic films tack­ling so­cial is­sues.

“I am used to learn­ing about the back­ground of the film first,” says Zheng. “In ad­di­tion to go­ing to the cinema, I also watch movies on video-shar­ing web­sites like Youku and iQIYI.”

Zheng says that it is not a sur­prise for him to see a ro­bust per­for­mance in a domestic film, com­pared to Hol­ly­wood mega-pro­duc­tions about su­per he­roes, be­cause of a more open and flex­i­ble film cen­sor­ship.

“A lot of satir­i­cal real-life sto­ries are now put onto the screen,” he added. “Re­al­is­tic movies will con­tinue to at­tract big­ger crowds of peo­ple in China as their sto­ries are more grass-rooted and closely con­nected with or­di­nary peo­ple’s lives and emo­tions.”

The Shang­hai film in­dus­try is boom­ing and there have been sev­eral high-qual­ity, orig­i­nal pro­duc­tions.

Thirty-five Shang­hai-pro­duced movies were re­leased at the­aters, gross­ing 10.4 bil­lion yuan in to­tal, an in­crease of 110 per­cent on the pre­vi­ous year. It ac­counted for over a quar­ter of all home­grown movie ticket sales.

Twelve films, pro­duced by the lo­cal com­pa­nies, made over 100 mil­lion yuan at the box of­fice, in­clud­ing “Dy­ing to Sur­vive,” “Us and Them,” “The Is­land” and the crime thriller “Project Guten­berg.” Dur­ing the process of script writ­ing, shoot­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion, al­most all 12 films re­ceived fund­ing through the city govern­ment.

Box of­fice re­ceipts in Shang­hai hit 3.7 bil­lion yuan last year. The city also made im­prove­ments to the cinema ex­pe­ri­ence. And to date there are 360 the­aters and 2,158 movie screens in Shang­hai, more than any city in China.

New high-tech screen­ing halls with func­tions like IMAX, Onyx, 4D and RealD Cinema have been in­tro­duced. A new IMAX laser theater also opened at Shang­hai Hoyts Cinema last year. Equipped with a brand new gen­er­a­tion of IMAX laser pro­jec­tion and 12-chan­nel sound, it has im­proved vis­ual ex­pe­ri­ence in bright­ness, con­trast and sharp­ness.

Ex­perts are op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of Chi­nese cinema as film­mak­ers are at­tach­ing more im­por­tance to re­al­ity.

Pro­fes­sor Gu Xiaom­ing, a film ex­pert of Fu­dan Uni­ver­sity, says that Chi­nese cinema has over­come a bot­tle­neck of sto­ries with the sup­port of the film pol­icy. A lot of ex­cel­lent directors, who are also scriptwrit­ers and au­thors, will emerge in the near fu­ture. In his opin­ion, film is part of re­al­ity and peo­ple re­flect on their own lives from this magic mir­ror.

“As Os­car Wilde says, it is the spec­ta­tor, not life, that art re­ally mir­rors,” Gu said. “A good film does have the power to in­spire an au­di­ence. We need more good in-depth sto­ries about the vi­cis­si­tudes of the so­ci­ety, just like Balzac’s nov­els.”

To make the film in­dus­try fully de­vel­oped and strong, he also sug­gests lo­cal govern­ment pro­vide more sup­port for scriptwrit­ing and lit­er­a­ture, and es­tab­lish a ma­ture film re­view mech­a­nism to fos­ter more pow­er­ful orig­i­nal pro­duc­tions.

There are also many highly an­tic­i­pated domestic pro­duc­tions to be screened in 2019.

Crime thriller film “The­ory of Am­bi­tions” gath­ers award-win­ning ac­tors Tony Le­ung and Aaron Kwok to de­pict two no­to­ri­ous cor­rupt Hong Kong po­lice of­fi­cers dur­ing the 1960s. The film also por­trays the tremen­dous changes of so­ci­ety at that time.

The war epic film “800” by main­land film­maker Guan Hu is a trib­ute to the 800 Chi­nese sol­diers who sac­ri­ficed their lives in the fa­mous De­fense of Si­hang Ware­house in 1937.

Ac­cord­ing to direc­tor Guan, they shot the war scenes with a top ALEXA IMAX65 cam­era. The film’s special ef­fects and stunts are done by Hol­ly­wood vis­ual artists who were in­volved in the pro­duc­tion of “The Thin Red Line,” “Ti­tanic” and “The Lord of the Rings.”

Mar­tial arts film “The Hid­den Sword,” a story set in the 1930s, will also be re­leased. Star­ring Huang Jue and Xu Qing, the film is helmed by Xu Haofeng who is also a well­known mar­tial arts writer.

10.

11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

We need more good in-depth sto­ries about the vi­cis­si­tudes of the so­ci­ety, just like Balzac’s nov­els.

Gu Xiaom­ing Film critic

“Us and Them”

“The­ory of Am­bi­tions”

“The Is­land”

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