New source of cheap thrills

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-12-03 07:39:26

New source of cheap thrills

Monk Comes Out of the Mountain is among China's biggest Internet-only features this year. Photos provided to China Daily

Online flicks are easier to produce and bypass traditional distribution platforms, such as cinemas and TV, and once uploaded to Chinese video sites, they can reach an audience of some 650 million, Raymond Zhou writes.

When Le Vision Pictures planned to prescreen a new release in late November, it ran into a stumbling block in the form of film exhibitors.

Prescreening is customary in the film industry, but where Le Vision riled the exhibition arm of the business was in the choice of its venue. While most such screenings take place in movie theaters or private rooms (usually post-production facilities), Le Vision wanted to have its screening online for its paid subscribers. Even though its subscriber base is limited-it's said to be 50,000-movie theater chains unanimously saw the move as a threat to their business.

Le Vision had to cancel its plan and apologize to both exhibitors and its members. But had The Murderer Vanishes been an Internet-only film, the fracas would not have taken place.

Most feature films in the fiction category typically premiere in movie theaters, professionally known as a "theatrical release". And after a "window" of a few months, they move to less influential platforms, such as television and online streaming. Distribution via videotapes and disks never really took off in China.

An Internet-only film bypasses traditional platforms, such as theaters and television. It is uploaded to video sites such as iQiyi and Youku, making it available to a vast online audience, currently at 650 million Chinese, much like other user-generated content such as text and graphics.

According to Li Yansong, president of iQiyi Pictures, an Internet-only feature has a budget of between 500,000 yuan ($78,000) and 4 million yuan, with no elaborate sets and a much shorter production cycle of two or three months.

It is longer than 60 minutes and the core is the storytelling.

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