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Spring Festival movies chart new, inspiring cultural trends

By Sun Jiashan and Wang Jianan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-24 08:58
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JIN DING/CHINA DAILY

At the beginning of the Year of the Dragon, the 2024 Spring Festival film season has unexpectedly set some records after seeming devoid of blockbusters.

To begin with, the box office revenue during Spring Festival surpassed 8 billion yuan ($1.11 billion). This year's success story is different from those of previous years which were marked by grand-theme, big-budget spectacles such as The Battle at Lake Changjin II in 2022 and The Wandering Earth II in 2023. Instead, this Spring Festival season saw medium-budget films with contemporary realistic themes dominating the market.

Jia Ling's YOLO, riding on the success of Hi, Mom during the 2021 Spring Festival season, captivated audiences, especially young and middle-aged women, with its mature comedy and resonant theme of self-discovery through weight loss. The film started attracting widespread attention even before being released thanks to robust social media discussions about it.

Five years after Pegasus, Han Han released Pegasus 2, showcasing a higher level of craftsmanship and targeting the demographic group of young and middle-aged men, which significantly contributed to its box office success. The Boonie Bears series continued its strong performance with its 10th installment, Boonie Bears: Time Twist, maintaining its appeal to children and families alike, securing its position as the highest-grossing animated film to hit the screens during Spring Festival, and pushing the series' total earnings past 7 billion yuan.

The prevailing theme of this year's movie lineup was the focus on "everyman" narratives, presenting stories that resonate with the people and showcase the joys, sorrows, and struggles of ordinary people, thus reflecting strong social values. Article 20, for example, tackled burning social issues, drawing upon recent trends in crime and comedy genres. It's a poignant and educational take on the spirit of socialist legality.

Both YOLO and Pegasus 2, despite their differences in terms of genres, celebrated the enduring spirit of never giving up, extending beyond sports to explore the meaning of life, thereby offering a positive worldview and values to a young audience increasingly exposed to a passive or defeatist attitude.

The record-breaking turnout not only marked a further enrichment of modern Spring Festival customs but also signifies a shift in consumer behavior — from a focus on material to cultural, entertainment, and health-oriented consumption. This transition is particularly meaningful for the film industry, as it underscores the growing significance of cinema as a central aspect of Chinese New Year celebrations.

In the past year, the entertainment sector has led the national consumption market recovery, with the film industry playing a pivotal role. The synergy between online and offline, and inside and outside cinema consumption driven by film IPs has been widely felt across society.

The record-breaking audience numbers for the 2024 Spring Festival season will not only contribute to tapping the year's entertainment market potential, it also reflects the confidence of the Chinese people in achieving new developments in the new era.

Sun Jiashan is an associate researcher at the Central Academy of Culture and Tourism Administration; and Wang Jianan is a graduate student at the China Film Archive. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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