China's movie-makers prepare to compete in 3D arena

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, April 9, 2010
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Leading Chinese film-makers are lining up 3D movie projects in the hope of capitalizing on the spectacular success of Avatar and the latest Hollywood 3D blockbuster Alice in Wonderland.

The China Film Group Corporation, a major production house and distributor, had two animated 3D films in the pipeline, company spokesman Weng Li told Xinhua, although he declined to give details.

The company was also considering ideas for 3D live-action films, he said.

The CFGC movies would likely follow the release of The Tangshan Earthquake from one of China's most commercially successful directors Feng Xiaogang.

Feng said in January that he had decided to transform the film of the devastating 1976 earthquake into a 3D film for its hoped-for release date of July 28.

He said it even had potential as another IMAX blockbuster.

Weng Li said CFGC believed 3D cinema would develop rapidly in China.

Weng said the company was extremely satisfied with the box office takings for Alice, which was distributed by the CFGC, although it still lagged behind Avatar.

Alice took 168.6 million yuan (24.7 million U.S. dollars) in its first12 days in China. Avatar took 309 million yuan (45.24 million dollars) within eight days and has earned a record 1.3 billion yuan (190 million dollars), most of it from 3D screenings as the 2D version was pulled from cinemas less than a month after release.

"The two movies are not comparable. A high budget and 14 years of production makes Avatar a once-in-a-decade event," Weng said.

China has so far screened eight foreign movies and two domestic movies in 3D, though the domestic films performed poorly, according to the CFGC.

However, Avatar has prompted a spike in 3D investment, Weng said.

A senior manager with the state-owned CFGC, who declined to be named, said, "The huge potential for 3D movies is luring more investment and it will take only one or two years for Chinese studios to mature in 3D production."

China has about 1,100 3D screens, a third of the total cinema screens, but cinema companies are gradually updating facilities.

Li Xianping, general manager of Ziguang theater in downtown Beijing, said, "A 3D age has already come. People enjoy the visual novelty and cinemas can profit more thanks to higher ticket price."

Li's company spent about 400,000 yuan converting two of its ten screens into 3D in 2009. In the first month after the renewal, the two screens earned the cinema more than 2 million yuan.

"Compared with revenues, the cost of conversion and maintenance of 3D screens is low," Li said.

Most 3D screens are the same size as standard screens, from which they are usually modified.

The number of IMAX screens, larger in size and specially good for 3D films, remains very small at an estimated 14 nationwide, according to CFGC.

A major market like Beijing has only three IMAX screens.

"The cost is too huge. An IMAX will cost us 20 million yuan and the maintenance fee is also high," Li said.

The future of 3D films is still not promising enough for cinemas to invest large amounts.

Li said she worried most about the supply of 3D movies.

"It all depends on how many films the CFGC (the country's sole importer of foreign movies) can import," she said.

Based on previous experience, foreign 3D films gain good box office, but the total foreign film import quota stands at 20 annually, she said.

Weng and Li agreed, however, that story and script would still be the soul of movies.

"A conventional film will attract a bigger audience if it tells a good touching story," Li said.

A CFGC survey found 90 percent of Chinese cinema-goers preferred movies that reflected the lives of ordinary Chinese, instead of fancy blockbusters set in ancient times or an imaginary land, Weng said.

The CFGC will in April release Go Lala Go, a homemade movie about an female office worker struggling to get ahead in a foreign company in China, directed by actress-turned-director Xu Jinglei.

"Our strategy is to balance the small homemade productions with foreign blockbusters," Weng said.

But a day after its release on April 15, Chinese audiences will be offered "Clash of the Titans," the current U.S. box office champion and another 3D film.

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