Chinese cinema toasts to 100 years
By Zhu Linyong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-29 07:28
In the so-called Chinese Blockbuster Age, the country's film industry has
plenty of reasons to toast to its 100 years of moviemaking.
Looking into the crystal glass ball, pundits are watching the signs and
predicting a promising future despite the hurdles that remain.
"With 100 years behind it, the Chinese film industry is regaining its
self-confidence despite setbacks and difficulties of all kinds," said
Beijing-based film historian Sun Jianshan. "Looking at its history gives us both
good lessons and enough reasons to predict a brighter future for the Chinese
Chinese cinema is not holding back when it comes to marking its achievements.
As Chinese audiences fill theatres to watch the much-hyped epic "The Promise"
(Wuji) and Shanghai romance "Perhaps Love" (Ruguo Ai), a string of lavish
celebrations are also being staged for the centenary of Chinese cinema art.
Early this month, a five-day international seminar on 100 years of Chinese
film was held in Beijing and attended by about 200 film scholars from around 60
countries and regions.
On December 22, a stone tablet with golden characters was erected at the
Daguanlou Movie Theatre, once called Fengtai Photo Shop some 100 years ago, in
southern Beijing to indicate the very birthplace of Chinese film art in 1905.
Yesterday, Chinese leaders attended a celebration at the Great Hall of the
People to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Chinese cinema art and the local
This morning, the China Film Museum, said to be the largest in Asia, opens to
the public in northeast Beijing.
What's more, between December 25 and March 31, 2006, 100 selected Chinese
films produced during the last century are being screened in cinemas across the
country to mark the anniversary.
It is an exciting time for Chinese film-makers and for Chinese film viewers.
"The year 2005 marks a third consecutive year of harvest for the Chinese film
industry, a decent gift for the centenary of Chinese film," said State Film
Bureau Chief Tong Gang, at a news briefing last weekend in Beijing.
Partly due to the enactment of a series of favourable film policies
encouraging the inflow of foreign and private money into the film business in
the autumn of 2004, the Chinese mainland has churned out 260 feature films in
2005, an increase of 48 over the last year.
Excluding those made by Hong Kong and Taiwan since the founding of New China
in 1949, China has turned out a total of 26,300 films since 1905 when the
country's first movie was shot and screened, including more than 7,200 features,
about 650 cartoons and animations, more than 12,400 news documentaries, about
4,800 science and educational ones, and more than 700 made-for-TV flicks.
On the international front, Chinese home-made films have won 32 international
awards, one of the indications of a booming Chinese film industry, Tong said.
A total of 18 homegrown films won 32 international awards in 24 international
film festivals in 2005. Meanwhile, at least 26 SARFT-authorized overseas Chinese
film exhibitions were held in 2005, with 215 Chinese-made films displayed in 22
countries and regions, he said.
A recent Xinhua report described: "Facing fierce commercial onslaught from
Hollywood, the Chinese movie industry advances carefully and optimistically."
Costumed love epic "Hero" (Yingxiong), directed by Zhang Yimou, reaped 1.45
billion yuan (US$180 million) in box office revenue and 30 million yuan (US$3.75
million) in revenue in film tie-in products, including DVDs, stamps and cartoons
A Wall Street Journal article said the film had ushered in a Chinese
Blockbuster Age. "Chinese films are participating in the international
competition by involving themselves in the international mainstream markets,"
said Beijing Film Academy professor Huang Shixian.
Since the mid-1980s, the Chinese movie industry has gone through a series of
deregulating and liberalizing reforms.
"During that time, market prices were consolidated, and the government moved
decisively to eliminate restrictions on private ownership," said associate
professor Hong Jun-Hao of the Department of Communication at the State
University of New York in Buffalo at the film seminar.
"Meanwhile, Hollywood pictures were permitted to be released in China. The
industrial structure and market practices created and practised by Hollywood
have become the new model for the Chinese movie industry," he said.
In 2004, despite a global market share of 0.9 per cent in box office, the box
office revenues in the Chinese mainland hit 1.5 billion yuan (US$183 million),
up 60 per cent over the previous year.
And in 2005, domestic box office yields have surpassed 2 billion yuan
(US$246.6 million) while overseas box office income has so far scored 1.7
billion yuan (US$209.6 million), and profits from TV showings nationwide scooped
up 1.2 billion yuan (US$148 million), totalling 4.8 billion yuan (US$592
million) 1.2 billion yuan (US$148 million) more than that in 2004, said Tong
Gang. Tong added that new media such as the Internet screening, mobile phone
screening, online games, and digital movie theatres have opened a new gate of
fortune for Chinese film-makers.
In 2005, a total of 55 cinemas were constructed with 272 new screens, adding
to the existing 2,668 screens in 1,243 cinemas; and the number of film screens
is expected to grow rapidly next year as more and more private and foreign
investments are pouring into this newfound profitable industry, observers said.
For instance, on December 26, Warner Brothers unveiled its plan to build
digital cinemas in the Chinese capital next June, following its ventures in
other major Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Dalian, Nanjing and Tianjin over
the past three years.
As China gave free rein to overseas investors in its digital cinema sector in
July this year, Warner Brothers accelerated its steps to open more digital
cinemas in China.
Under the new plan, the US film giant plans to increase its digital
projection halls in China to 170 by the end of 2007.
All these new developments are indicating a hard-earned rejuvenation of the
country's film industry, critics said.
(China Daily 12/29/2005 page13)