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Chinese movies struggle to make ends meet despite pretty box office
Updated: 2009-07-18 14:09

China's film producers are struggling to make their ends meet although the country's box office kept breaking records.

The Hollywood blockbuster Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen gained 400 million yuan ($58.45 million) in China 19 days after its release on June 24, breaking the record set by Titanic ten years ago.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which hit the mainland market on Friday, is also expected to challenge the new record.

The country's film business seemed vigorous and profitable as movies repeatedly reported box office higher than 100 million yuan, a watershed for a "hit" movie.

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Besides foreign blockbusters, domestic films had pretty figures as well. If You Are The One, a homemade comedy by Chinese director Feng Xiaogang, gained 325 million yuan early this year. Silver Medalist, a black comedy by young director Ning Hao, also grossed in 100 million yuan this spring.

Major movie watch websites have raised the box office standard of a "hit" movie from 100 million to 300 million.

Feng Xiaogang expected his coming film Tangshan Earthquake to draw 500 million yuan of box office. The film is being shot and can be released next summer.

However, some insiders argued that most of domestic film producers are still struggling to make their ends meet.

The box office of a Chinese movie is usually divided into three parts: 50 percent to cinemas, 10 percent to distributors and 40 percent to producers.

A film with an investment of 80 million yuan must gain at least 200 million box office so that its producers will make their ends meet, said Han Sanping, chairman of China Film Group Corporation, in an interview with Shanghai-based Wen Hui Daily.

According to a research report on Chinese film industry issued by the Chinese Film Association in June, China produced 406 films last year, each with an investment of 5 million yuan in average.

Based on Han's principle, domestic movies should have gained 5.1 billion yuan of box office last year if their producers had balanced the cost with revenue.

But the country's total box office stood at 4.3 billion yuan last year and only 60 percent, or 2.58 billion, was contributed by domestic movies.

"In a mature film industry, box office is not the only source of revenue," said Jiang Defu, director of the marketing department under the China Film Group Corporation.

Box office takes up 30 percent of a film's revenue in Hollywood and the rest 70 percent come from derivative film products and advertisement, he said.

"We still need to learn from their experience. Chinese film producers should not only attract audience into cinema but also explore the market out of the cinema," he said.

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