Films imported to the mainland on a revenue-sharing basis in 2016 (Sources/EntGroup Inc, GT) (Graphics/GT)
For lovers of foreign films in China, 2016 was definitely a bountiful year. With the release of Hacksaw Ridge on December 8, the number of foreign box-office films imported on a revenue-sharing basis this year reached a record high of 40. Among these Hollywood movies dominated the list.
This is not surprising though, as the Chinese film market "has been the focus for Hollywood studios in recent years," according to a Bloomberg report from February. In 2016, several US blockbusters released in the Chinese mainland not only earned big at the box office, but also sparked a number of top news stories and discussions on Chinese social media platforms.
When it comes to pure numbers, "Disney definitely stands out among all Hollywood studios, with eight of its films released in Chinese mainland this year," wrote an article on Chinese film site Mtime in late October.
"The box-office revenue of its Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Captain America: Civil War, Zootopia and The Jungle Book in Chinese mainland alone added up to a total of 4.5 billion yuan (7 million)," the article wrote.
In terms of ratings, Disney's animated film Zootopia triumphed, topping all three online film-rating platforms in China. The film holds an 8.6/10 on Mtime, a 9.2/10 on media review site Douban and a 7.5/10 on Yingxiangbiao, a Wechat-based film-scoring project whose primary members are local film critics and film professionals. "Judy the rabbit" and "Nick the fox" - the film's lead characters - topped the most-searched keywords on Sina Weibo, one of the country's largest social media platforms, the very next day after its debut.
"A classic cartoon," commented film researcher tyger tyger on Yingxiangbiao. "It hints at ethnic conflict and identity politics, the exact challenges the world is facing today… the film helps to break our preconceptions about Disney."
While another Disney animated work this year, Moana, the 14th film featuring a princess, failed to ignite the same fire that Frozen lit across the country three years ago, it still performed fairly well, critically speaking. The film has a 7.7/10 on Douban and a 7.9/10 on Mtime.
Judging from box-office revenue and Chinese moviegoers' comments, it seems that Marvel's superhero stories still have major appeal in China. Rated 7.9/10 and 7.7/10 on Douban and Mtime respectively, Doctor Strange was dubbed "the most dazzling Marvel film ever" by some movie lovers on Chinese social media platforms.
Two other blockbusters based on Marvel comics, 20th Century Fox's X-Men: Apocalypse and Disney's Captain America: Civil War, not only sold big among Chinese fans, but ranked among the top 20 imported films this year on Yingxiangbiao.
'Warcraft' and 'Billy' split
In 2016, China and the US were split over two Hollywood productions - Warcraft, a video game adaption, and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Taiwan director Ang Lee's latest work.
While the two films were given the cold shoulder in the US, they soared to the top of mainland's box-office charts after their debuts, with Warcraft alone garnering a box-office revenue of 300 million yuan ( million) on the first day of release on June 8, according to a xinhua.net report.
While Warcraft's success in the mainland was closely tied to the popularity of the Blizzard Entertainment MMO in the country, the popularity of Billy had more to do with its visuals and the special attachment that Chinese hold toward Ang Lee. The first Chinese to win the Academy Award for Best Director, he has long been seen by Chinese movie lovers as a symbol of pride for the country.