China's film industry struggles to broaden appeal

Updated 2017-12-17 09:00:18 Xinhua

Despite taking a huge 50 billion yuan (7.56 billion U.S. dollars) at the box office in 2017, Chinese film still struggles to make an international impact.

Chinese cinema has seen rapid growth, of more than 30 percent a year, particularly in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, according to Zeng Maojun, president of Wanda Pictures, at a forum earlier this week.

Box office takings in the country leapt from 860 million yuan (130 million dollars) in 2002, to 10 billion yuan in 2010, to more than 50 billion in 2017.

"Despite its huge box office and a total of 800 films produced annually, the Chinese film industry still lags behind other major players, particularly Hollywood," wrote Professor Yin Hong of Tsinghua University, in a People's Daily article earlier this month. "Chinese films have earned much less international revenue than not only European and North American counterparts but also Asian ones such as in India, Japan and the Republic of Korea."

Yin also pointed out that the average Chinese paid fewer visits to cinemas than people in many other countries.

Chinese film producers are now eyeing improvement in quality and efficiency within the industry.

Zeng argued that Chinese cinema now needs to cater to increasingly diverse audiences and that currently there are too many "homogenous" films, reflected in highly similar genres and story lines.

"Certain audience groups cannot find the films they like, and certain films cannot reach the audience that might like them," Zeng said. "In the future growth will be driven by improvement of content."

He said that the industry needs more flexibility to produce films for niche audiences, particularly as the country now has more than 50,000 screens.

Zhang Zhao, a renowned producer, believes that China can learn from Hollywood producers, and that film producers need to better understand Chinese audiences and changes in their tastes.

"Chinese film makers may also introduce a more universal way of storytelling, which appeals to not only domestic but international audiences from different cultural backgrounds," Yin said.

He pointed out that the country still needs to develop a mature production and distribution network, taking the advantage of the fast expansion of the Internet, and cooperate better with foreign producers.

State-owned film production firms used to dominate Chinese film making but have seen their market influence gradually weaken.

"Most state-owned film producers are still undergoing restructuring from traditional management of public undertaking to modern corporate governance," said Zhang Hong, a senior official of the China Film Association. "They lack the flexible management of their private counterparts, to keep up with a fast changing market and audience."

La Peikang, chairman of China Film Company, said that state-owned film production firms are not held back by a lack of funds, but low efficiency and red tape. He said there needs to be more cooperation between the public and private sector, as well as more state support for young film makers, and stronger protection of intellectual property.

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