Online fantasy to hit the big screen with fan support

By Xu Fan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-06-04 07:52:43

Online fantasy to hit the big screen with fan support

Anthony LaMolinara (left), director Zhang Xiaoding (center) and producer Zhang Yibai attend a media event in Beijing to promote their upcoming movie. Photo provided to China Daily

Alibaba Pictures is the latest online platform to make a bid for the big screen, announcing it plans to turn a popular Internet novel into a movie with the help of fans.

Sansheng Sanshi Shili Taohua, (Ten-Mile Peach Blossom of Three Lifetimes), adapted from a 2008 hit online fantasy novel of the same title, will start shooting in November.

Set in a fictional world in which monsters, gods and humans coexist, the story weaves a complicated timeline into a bittersweet romance between a 140,000-year-old fox princess and a 50,000-year-old dragon prince.

Written by a low-profile author who is known only by the pseudonym Tangqi Gongzi, the novel has become an Internet sensation since it was released in 2008 on, one of the country's largest literature websites.

The novel was published by Shenyang Press in 2009 and has sold 1.1 million copies.

With a solid base of fans, up to 190 million pieces of news, reviews and other content related to the novel can be found through the search engine

Industry watchers say its online popularity and potential for market earnings could propel the film to be the next blockbuster that began life online.

The boom began when So Young, the directorial debut of A-list actress Zhao Wei, now a major shareholder of Alibaba Pictures, took a record box office of 718 million yuan ($116 million) in 2013.

However, the film unit of the country's most valuable e-commerce company, Alibaba, is making the latest title of this genre a bit differently, designing it for the targeted audience by allowing fans to influence every step of the moviemaking process.

Zhang Qiang, CEO of Alibaba Pictures, reveals that the original script has been evaluated by some die-hard fans, and the novel's readers will also have the right to select the cast through online votes.

A campaign to recruit some actors has been launched in a number of colleges in the country.

Zhang Yibai, the movie's producer and a veteran director of romance-themed blockbusters, has defined himself as a "project manager" rather than a filmmaker.

Though hardly masking their commercial ambition, the filmmakers promise the movie won't be a coarse production to be made only for the money.

"We'll create the best visual effects and have a big budget to hire the top talents," said Zhang Qiang at a Beijing media event on May 26.

Anthony LaMolinara, Oscar-winner for best visual effects for Spider Man 2, will lead a Hollywood team to design the fictional wonderland of a spectacle from heaven to the ocean.


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