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China in Film: Chinese Movies Explaining the Culture

China is the third largest film producer in the world after India and the United States. Chinese audiences, theaters, and movies are growing in popularity. In the past decade, Chinese box office sales and receipts have increased with beyond 30% each year. China is coincidentally turning into a middle-income country. Even with China’s economy growing at its slowest rate in 2015, the economic gloom couldn’t dampen the unqualified box-office boom. The annual ticket revenue rose by 48.7% at mainland theaters in 2015 recording a total of $6.78 billion (RMD 44million).

The film growth has been phenomenal, outperforming China’s traditional industries such as manufacturing and many experts now believe that China is on the track to have the largest film audience in the world by 2020. The media and entertainment industries of China are currently worth $180B. In the past five years, China’s entertainment industry has had a growth rate of 17% per year. Currently, the movie ticket sales in China are second only to the US. In 2016, there is much expectation that China will cross the $500 million threshold domestically. The Monster Hunt grossed $380m while Lost In Hong Kong has garnered more than $250m.

Different Types of Chinese Cinema

There are three distinct Chinese language Cinemas. In 1986, China cinema was introduced. The China Cinema has been around more than a decade now which is as almost the same age as Hollywood. In 1905, China’s first movie was made a Peking opera-themed flick, The Battle of Dingjunshan. In the first decades, the film industry was centered in Shanghai.

During the end of the 1920s, the Chinese films thrived. The film industry was still thriving in Shanghai. Many foreigners mingled with the Chinese filmmakers, the first movie stars from China. This era is the Golden Age of China’s Cinema.

Chinese Film as Propaganda

In 1949, after the Communist Party ascended to power, the golden era ended and films were propaganda tools forcing the Chinese filmmakers to lose their creative freedom. In Cultural Revolution period, China’s film industry struggled. The film industry was at a complete standstill, and no movies were made between 1966 and 1973, which ultimately reduced the China film industry. Any pursuits in filmmaking stopped.

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In 1978, normalcy returned, and the movie industry slowly came back to life. During the 1993 Cannes film festivals, “Farewell My Concubine” bagged the top spot with two Oscar nominations. Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger, ushered in a new film era after achieving such huge international commercial success.
From 1979 to 1990s, Chinese movies were mainly propaganda films which were approved by the Communist government which made the Chinese movie industry dwindle. China bought its first foreign film in 1994 which was The Fugitive, a Warner Bro’s production which starred Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford. China is importing more American films with an annual quota of 34 films a year. China is home to Hengdian World Studios, the largest film studio in the whole world.

Hengdian World Studios: China Film Central

There is a new Hollywood but rising from the East. In the remote Hills of Eastern China, there is a magical Kingdom that not even Walt Disney himself could have ever predicted. It is Hengdian World Studios which has 7,000 acres, making it the largest film lot worldwide. It’s a village for every era, a palace for every dynasty, and where the filmed some of the greatest movies in China.

The movie business has incredibly boomed in China. Shopping malls pop up and come with theaters. There are 22 new movie screening openings every year and in the last five years, the box office sales have grown to a staggering 350%. It is ridiculously overwhelming and has created a mass hysteria since it’s more of something that China had never seen before. Its transformation into a multi-billion dollar industry in a short span of time is what is awe-inspiring. China has grown bigger and better with the Chinese studios producing over 600 features yearly including sci-fi, thrillers and action movies.

Behind the burgeoning film industry is a group of pioneering movie moguls such as Dennis Wang, who is the head of the Huayi Bros. He is a billionaire and a capitalist from the film business. China is eying Hollywood and this year a Chinese company. Dalian Wanda Group purchased Hollywood Studios, Legendary Entertainment for around $3.5b which is a renowned for the production of Jurassic World and Batman franchises. Others are investing in multi-movie production deals with American companies to ensure that they are making movies which will reach the global market.

Chinese Film Popularity on the Rise in the World

In the next five years, China is planning to compete with Hollywood on level grounds by producing English films and using Hollywood actors. Even with the world recession, Chinese film business happens to be recession-proof, and they had recorded highest box office earners when the economy was doing badly. The Chinese market size is quite big leaving Hollywood. For instance, the blockbuster Transformers 4 was partly filmed in China and also co-stars Li Bingbing.

Restrictions in Chinese Cinema

The Chinese have a quota system which allows only 34 movies a year movies as a strategy to promote local production more. Hollywood has tried going around this rule by co-producing movies with the Chinese local studios. For instance, Kung Fu Panda 3 animates in both Shanghai and California, and the co-production is done by DreamWorks so as to tailor the movie to both Chinese and American audiences.

China’s film industry has come a long way since for so many years; the movies originated on communist propaganda, patriotic peasants, guerilla soldiers and revolutionary heroes and anybody who did go against this was thrown in jail or even much worse. The Chinese consumer culture has been majorly transformed by prosperity but even with significant strides; the Chinese government is involved in almost every stage of movie production in China, and the government is the ultimate determinant of which films are in theaters.

Movies such as the City of Life and Death which is an epic World War II movie was censored for a better part of the year since the film presented the Japanese soldiers (arch-enemies of China) in a flattering way. Hollywood has also learned the art of self-censoring and in the green lit before a movie releases to the Chinese market, they must ensure that it is not offensive to both the Chinese people and the authorities. For instance in Men in Black 3, all the scenes depicting the Chinese bad guys were cut out from the film before its release in China.

China has now moved from just propaganda movies. There has also been a rise in movie-going. Video screens are in small cities. In 2012, China had around 31,627 movie screens while North America had 39,000 video screen. By 2017, the number would have grown to around 53,000 movie screens.

Chinese Film Celebrities

China’s richest man Wang Jianlian, who is the largest commercial real-estate developer in China, is just one of the Chinese business leaders who have recognized that many elements of the entertainment business are fully global, and if they want to maximize their revenues, then they need to be able to access global markets seamlessly. Making international acquisitions is the perfect way to accelerate. Early Chinese moves into foreign entertainment have been successful.

The Chinese government quota policy that allows only 34 films yearly apply to revenue-sharing which allows foreign companies to take up 25% of the box office receipts but in future once the Chinese governments earn more confidence in the Chinese films ability to compete with Hollywood imports, then the 34-film quota might increase. China’s film industry is also focusing on technological revolution. For instance, Jack Ma, the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, has also invested in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. He invested $4.8m towards video platforms because the online movies are experiencing massive growth.

China’s film industry is way larger than life; there are so many investors in China looking for the best film projects to invest. China is now producing big budget blockbuster movies for its voracious consumers having bagged some blockbusters. The Mermaid, which garnered $525.8 million in China. The quality of production is improving by the day focusing on the Hollywood standard. But even with domestic success, some of the Chinese movies haven’t exactly been received well globally, and that’s what the filmmakers are trying to bridge. There is a project in the making, Jack Chan And Pierce Brosnan, which is expected to change everything. For China’s film industry, there are many spectacular productions to come.

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