Welcome to China Film File, a weekly brief on the business of movies in China. In today’s news: complications plague the second film import license for the mainland, Alibaba’s version of Kickstarter sells out in five days, and Hollywood stars come to China.
China has continued to host an insatiable thirst for speed as Need For Speed retains its top box office position for the third week in a row, beating out locally produced animated film Mr. Peabody & Sherman while grossing almost $60 million. Concurrently, acclaimed Chinese noir Black Coal, Thin Ice has been doing surprisingly well in the mainland despite an aggressive negative advertising campaign waged against the film and art-house qualities that looked like they would hold back profits. Coal’s success at the box offices bodes well for idiosyncratic productions in China and will hopefully pave the way for more sophisticated films in the mainland’s heavily blockbuster-oriented film market.
In light of China’s love for American superhero movies, chances are Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which opens today, will be the top film of next week’s box office results.
(Box results courtesy of Box Office Mojo.)
China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio Film and Television (SAPPRFT) has complicated the recent deal of a second film import and distribution license being handed to the China National Culture and Art Corporation (CNCAC).
Apparently, things have become considerably confused by the SAPPRFT, who are simply stating that they are only recognizing the last deal inked regarding China’s film trade agreements, which took place in 2012. Furthermore, the regulatory organization stated they “don’t know anything about” [link]the new organization. While the CNCAC may still be getting its license, sources claim that they have no experience with films or connections to theaters in China.
Ultimately, this means that the second film distribution deal for the CNCAC will not necessarily be bringing a higher imported film quota, and speculation over what functions the new license will entail still remain to be seen. For now, it’s anybody’s guess how China’s opaque official agendas may sway this issue from inside.
Alibaba’s Kickstarter-like Yu Le Bao completely sold out in five days, unfortunately funding another two official Tiny Times movies.
Hong Kong filmmaker Cheung Chi-sing is worried that China’s film industry is beginning to show signs of a bubble. Some of the factors fueling this anxiety include the fact that the avalanche of theaters built every day is creating uncontrollable competition for ticket sales, as well as the opacity of standards set for films by censors—millions of dollars are being lost because in 2013, out of the 700 films produced and sent to China’s film bureau, only 200 of them ended up being shown.
Johnny Depp isn’t the only Hollywood star coming to promote films in China. Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Evans have gone on a charm offensive in the mainland to promote Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
On the recent occurrence of Hollywood stars touring China to plug films, Rance Pow, the president of Shanghai film consulting firm Artisan Gateway, said:
“With some Hollywood films producing higher grosses at the China box office than in the U.S. domestic market, major studios’ focus on creating awareness and ticket-buying excitement for its films has never been higher. Also, with Chinese language film production and performance on the rise, wooing Chinese film patrons to cinemas becomes a competitive issue.”
Sinostand recently posted an insightful article that stipulates what changes film censors would make to Hollywood classic and mainland favorite Forest Gump if America had censorship policies similar to China’s. One highlight:
8. When Forrest meets President Kennedy he says that he “has to pee.” This is very offensive and disrespectful toward an American leader. Furthermore, Forrest discovers a picture of Marilyn Monroe in Kennedy’s bathroom. This alludes to false rumors and gravely distorts history.