Surprise winners at the Chinese box office

By Xu Fan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-05-07 07:51:35

A big number of screenings is regarded as another key to win the box office.

The screenings of Silent Separation accounted for nearly 33 percent of the 23,600 silver screens in 5,540 theaters on its first day. The Left Ear took around 30 percent on its debut.

However, it has sparked protest from veteran filmmakers behind art-house titles competing in the same holiday season. Award-winning director Wang Xiaoshuai, for example, watched his latest movie Red Amnesia struggle to get 1 percent of screenings for his premiere on the same day Silent Separation debuted.

"It was the darkest day in my career. All my effort has failed in front of the grueling reality. I'm quite desperate and doubt if I can still pursue my film dream," says the director famed for Beijing Bicycle, a Silver Bear winner at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2001.

Red Amnesia is a nominee for the main competition section of the 71th Venice International Film Festival, and has so far scored eight out of 10 on major Chinese film sites.

The art-house romance Murmur of the Heart, directed by Taiwan veteran female filmmaker Sylvia Chang, also got around 1 percent of screening slots when it premiered on April 30.

Wang slashes the low screenings for art-house titles as "predesigned murder", a sign that this is "the worst age" for serious moviemakers.

However, some Chinese film critics regard the phenomenon as natural in a developing market.

"Art-house productions naturally belong to limited viewers, most of whom prefer to watch the titles at home, through the Internet or on DVDs," says Han Haoyue, a veteran film critic. "However, moviegoers flocking to theaters are taking it as a social lifestyle."

"The mainstream ticket buyers may hardly read the reviews by professional critics. They don't care if it's a good movie. They just want to watch the movies that most of the people in their social circles have watched, and then enjoy the pleasure of joining the conversation about a sensational topic," Han says.

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