Business / Industries

China's comedy box-office hit stirs debate

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-12-26 17:04

BEIJING - A low-budget comedy has become the box office hit of the year on the Chinese mainland, leaving a heavily-funded domestic blockbuster trailing.

"Lost in Thailand", which was produced for only 30 million yuan ($4.8million), earned 700 million yuan ($112 million) up until Christmas Eve, after debuting on Dec 12.

The movie tells the story of two company managers scrambling to obtain contract authorization from the company's biggest shareholder. Hilarity follows when the duo travel to Thailand to search for the secluded shareholder.

However, the blockbuster "Back to 1942", which cost 200 million yuan and directed by Chinese director Feng Xiaogang, only earned 400 million yuan, far off the one billion yuan that was predicted.

The film focuses on the drought in that year which killed three million people in Henan province and left millions as refugees. Feng spent more than ten years to research and make the movie.

Feng expressed his anger online after his movie failed to meet expectations at the box-office.

"I'm not proud of my nation anymore." Feng posted on, China's Twitter-like microblog service.

Some in the Chinese media were also critical. The People's Daily said, "Facing the heavy and painful theme of 'Back to 1942', audiences chose to enjoy a modern comedy. We need a fast food culture, but we also need stories to remind us of the hard times."

Chinese netizens had different thoughts. "I think 'Lost in Thailand' is a good movie. Everybody deserves to sometimes relax and have fun," according to a blogger named "gonggongma."

Shi Chuan, a film reviewer and professor from school of film and TV arts and technology of Shanghai University said that the success of "Lost in Thailand" and Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" in China indicated that the domestic film industry is experiencing a transitional period.

"Chinese audiences don't prefer those 'heavy' movies these days," Shi said,"Chinese youngsters especially white-collars in big cities live under huge pressures which make them want to watch sweet and easy-going movies."

Other native film makers and reviewers believed comedies like "Lost in Thailand" bring hope to the Chinese film industry and that it can compete with foreign blockbusters.

Domestic films accounted for 41.4 percent of total ticket sales from January to October this year, compared with 54 percent for the same period in 2011.

The government allowed an extra 14 US movies to be screened in cinemas this year.

"It is hard for a Chinese movie to compete with a Hollywood blockbuster. But if we have ten domestic movies like 'Lost in Thailand', Hollywood will have to re-evaluate the Chinese film industry. If we have twenty of them, it will no longer be a dream to defeat foreign blockbusters," Shi said.

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