Moviegoers wait outside a cinema in Shanghai on July 15. The big screen shows a scene from the animated movie Chang'an. (Photo provided to China Daily)
Movies: Promising future seen for domestic film industry
The scorching summer heat seems to be driving moviegoers by the thousands into the theaters. As of the weekend ending Saturday, the country's summer box-office haul had exceeded 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion), the milestone being achieved in the shortest time span in the history of the Chinese film industry.
The box-office revenue was grossed between June 1 and July 22, an increase of 158 percent over the same period last year, with single-day collections surpassing 100 million yuan for 32 consecutive days, according to Beacon, a live film information tracker.
A total of 89 new movies have hit the theaters during the period, translating into 20 million screenings and 249 million tickets sold, combined figures from China Film Distribution and Screening Association and Beacon showed.
In recent years, China has witnessed a growing interest in domestic movie productions. The trend has continued this summer, with the top three highest-grossing films all being Chinese releases.
Having raked in 3.5 billion yuan till now, Lost in the Stars — a crime thriller that follows the story of a man searching for his missing wife during an overseas trip — has been on top of the summer season charts with its storyline provoking deep contemplation about marriage and female friendship.
Following the champion is Never Say Never, the second directorial venture of action actor-turned filmmaker Wang Baoqiang. Adapted from a true story, the movie — which has raked in over 1.8 billion yuan — portrays how a group of underprivileged rural youngsters struggle for survival and success through martial art competitions.
Chang'an, China's longest animated movie at 168 minutes, which tells the story of beloved Tang Dynasty (618-907) poets Li Bai and his confidant Gao Shi, has secured the third spot by grossing 1.1 billion yuan.
Chang'an brings to life on the screen a total of 48 poems composed by some of the dynasty's most famous poets, prompting many parents to take their children to theaters so that they could learn about these literary masterpieces.
For most industry insiders, the momentum created by these Chinese blockbusters signals a promising future for the domestic film industry, which has already grossed over 32.7 billion yuan in the first seven months of the year.
Hu Jianli, secretary-general of the China Film Critics Association, said that this summer movie season is the first after pandemic prevention measures were lifted, and the speed and scale of recovery of the film industry has exceeded expectations.
He added that big-budget Hollywood movies, once highly popular among the local audience, have now been overshadowed by Chinese movies. The underwhelming market performance of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One are prime examples.
Yuan Yun'er, a Beijing-based film critic, said the changing preferences of Chinese audiences can be attributed to the staleness of the common Hollywood formula of stunning action sequences and a plotline where the hero saves the day.
While the charm of Hollywood is diminishing, the Chinese film industry has made remarkable progress in terms of budget and special effects, leading to visually captivating cinema that resonate better with local audiences due to the familiar cultural elements, Yuan explained.
Chen Jin, an analyst with Beacon, estimated that the summer season will continue to rake in more revenue with the release of more Chinese films in the coming weeks.
On Thursday and Friday, two new Chinese releases quickly turned blockbusters. Creation of the Gods 1: Kingdom of Storms, a mythological epic adapted from a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) classic collected 345 million yuan in four days, surpassing Mission: Impossible 7, which has earned 289 million yuan since it opened on July 14. Wonder Family, a fantasy produced by the country's most popular comedy brand Mahua FunAge, has grossed 211 million yuan in three days.
The highly anticipated upcoming releases include One and Only, which follows the story of a young dancer pursuing his hip-hop dream, and Meg 2: The Trench, the sequel to a successful Sino-US sci-fi coproduction. The two movies are scheduled to be released on July 28 and Aug 4, respectively.
"This summer season, which will conclude by the end of August, may see earnings surpass 16 billion yuan at the box office," said Chen, adding that the market has the potential to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels.
In 2019, the summer season (June 1 to Aug 31) box office collection was 17.8 billion yuan.