From Disney's 1998 animated feature "Mulan" to DreamWorks' 2011 hit "Kung Fu Panda 2," Hollywood blockbusters have been enjoying success through their use of Chinese elements.
While major Hollywood studios have seen decreased earnings in the domestic market, offshore box office earnings totaled a record 13.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2011, with China as one of the major forces driving up ticket sales.
Last year, China's film market generated 13.1 billion yuan (2 billion dollars), of which 4.9 billion yuan, or 37 percent, was generated by ticket sales for U.S. blockbusters.
Since China imported its first American movie, "The Fugitive," in 1994, the country has increasingly contributed to Hollywood's earnings.
It is expected by some to overtake Japan, which had a 2.3-billion-U.S.-dollar film market last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
No film producer would dare ignore this market, and director James Cameron has even made China a major destination for his firm's film shoots and promotional activities and described China's 3D film and TV market as "an endless prospect."
"When I came to China in 2010, there were 600 screens showing films. Now, however, 'Titanic 3D' is being shown on 2,800 screens," Cameron said of the film that recently set records in the Chinese mainland.
His sci-fi smash-hit "Avatar" is the highest-grossing film of all time, marking up 2.78 billion U.S. dollars worldwide, including 200 million U.S. dollars in China.
"So what can be more useful than a film with a Chinese story in seizing a share of the tremendous market," said film theorist Dai Jinhua.
ATTRACTING CHINESE AUDIENCES, ENTERTAINING THE WORLD
The story, as Cameron has said, is the essence and the soul of a film. A good story, especially one integrated with great human elements, will bring a film both smart earnings and awards.
Therefore, film producers prefer to choose a story that is both "good" and "Chinese" -- a move to cater to the massive Chinese market as well as entertain the rest of the world.
Based on Chinese stories, Disney's animated feature "Mulan" grossed 304 million U.S. dollars worldwide in 1998, and the "Kung Fu Panda" series produced by DreamWorks Animation has become the highest-grossing animated film worldwide and has been nominated for many prizes, including Academy Awards.
Meanwhile, "The Departed," which was based on a 2002 Hong Kong detective film, captured four Oscars and grossed nearly 300 million U.S. dollars worldwide.
China has a history of thousands of years which serves a database for stories, said Tong Gang, the nation's top film official, noting that many traditional stories, like Hua Mulan, could be enjoyed by audiences around the world if they are developed properly.
Moreover, China is also becoming a hot spot for film shoots, partly because directors and producers hope this will attract the Chinese audience.
Peter Berg, director of "Battleship," a sci-fi movie that debuted in China on April 18, said at the film's premiere that he chose Hong Kong as a major location damaged by the "intruding aliens" in the film because he believed that most Chinese would be concerned about what happens there.
Cameron said he found great inspiration in China's mountains and rivers during the shooting of "Avatar," in which a mountain in the Chinese resort Zhangjiajie served as the inspiration for the film's Hallelujah Mountain fairyland.
HOLLYWOOD TAKES A PIECE CHINESE FILMMAKERS WANT
Hollywood's mode of cashing in on Chinese elements has burned some Chinese filmmakers, who have also been eager to tap the country's vast market.
"Chinese filmmakers don't lack classic stories, but either we are not telling stories in films or we are telling a story badly," said Chinese actress Li Fei, who sighed at the fact that Chinese stories are being reinterpreted in China by foreign filmmakers.
Simply duplicating the Hollywood model is doomed to fail. Chinese filmmakers should present China's realities and stories of the time with their own points of view, said Dai Jinhua.
Jim Gianopulos, chairman of Fox Entertainment Group, said at a forum during the ongoing 2nd Beijing International Festival that a good film should integrate technologies and good stories with universal values capable of touching people around the world.
To make up for outdated film technologies, China is hoping to woo overseas teams into co-developing films and borrowing advanced concepts.
Cameron, who was in China for the international film festival that kicked off on April 23, signed a cooperation deal for the Cameron Pace Group with representatives from north China's Tianjin municipality. His 3D team will also provide 3D effects for the "The Art of War," a locally-produced film about the ancient Chinese strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu.
Contracts for 21 major film projects have been signed and contracts for over 100 other projects are expected to be signed during the film festival, according to the festival's organizing committee.
Earlier this year, China increased its quota for imported American blockbusters by adding another 14 films into its import limit, marking a new opportunity for Hollywood and maybe for Chinese filmmakers, as well.