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Chinese films: So far, so good

By Zhu Jin | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-12 07:25

It seems to be the best of times for China's film industry. With Tiny Times raking in 263 million yuan ($42.89 million) in the last four days of June (it was released on June 27), the domestic film market registered its highest half-yearly box office returns -10.9 billion yuan in the first six months of 2013, up 35 percent year-on- year.

More importantly, Chinese films accounted for 63 percent of the box office revenue compared with just 34 percent in the first half of last year. But the question is: Can this success be sustained and can Chinese films really compete against Hollywood blockbusters?

"The Chinese film market is rapidly expanding with over 3,000 new screens added each year. But despite this, there is still an element of luck behind the record box office revenue," says Peng Kan, research and development director at Beijing-based consulting company Legend Media.

"Most Hollywood movies screened in China in the first half of this year were similar in content, and Chinese cinemagoers are tired of watching American superheroes saving the world. Most Chinese viewers are suffering from 'Hollywood fatigue' after seeing similar stories being repeated in one Hollywood film after another, especially because they are far removed from people's daily lives."

In contrast, domestic films have been dealing with real life issues and telling stories which young Chinese cinemagoers can associate with. For example, debutant director and famous actress Zhao Wei's So Young portrays the lives of a group of students in the 1990s and their loss of innocence. Not surprisingly, it made about 720 million yuan at the box office in May.

Film producer Yan Jing says that "youth movies", rarely made earlier, are becoming common because teenagers and young adults comprise the largest group of cinemagoers in China.

Tiny Times and other strong box office performers, such as American Dreams in China and Finding Mr Right, also targeted teenagers and young adults by incorporating many of the hot issues discussed on micro blogs into the plots. But Yan cautions that youth movies need to be carefully crafted. Otherwise, viewers will get tired of seeing the same theme being repeated.

Creative marketing strategies are another reason for the success of domestic films. And social media marketing have played a special role in boosting the profile of Chinese movies by raising film topics for discussion and organizing online conversations with directors and actors.

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