Growing domestic comedies set to boost festive scene

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Fresh off a fruitful 2015, China's domestic comedies are looking forward to another year of anticipation.

Total box office sales in China smashed records by reaching 44 billion yuan (6.7 billion U.S. dollars) in 2015, with the top ten domestic comedies of the year raking in 9.5 billion yuan, accounting for over 20 percent of the total.

Of the five domestic films that exceeded one billion yuan in 2015, four are comedies, according to statistics from Entgroup, a major think tank on showbiz in China.

With Spring Festival, China's most important holiday, approaching and several highly anticipated domestic comedies scheduled, Chinese comedies can expect another promising harvest.


The boom of Chinese comedies lies in the power of levity, helping people break away from solemnity.

"Mounting pressure in life increases people's interest in comedies, which can leave them laughing," said Wali, a renowned film critic on Chinese microblog site Weibo.

Boqiao, a film practitioner at a major film corporation in China, agrees. "Most Chinese people regard watching films in cinemas as entertainment rather than art appreciation," he said.

Such huge appetite for comedies has allowed amateur comedians a chance to gain favor on the silver screen, such as the movie "Jian Bing Man" by Internet sensation Dong Chengpeng.

With their fan base playing a big part, these films, directed by relatively "green hands," can usually draw a large crowd, according to critics. "People are familiar with their styles given their popularity elsewhere, especially for the fans in smaller cities," Wali added.

After all, it is the quality of the film that has the final say.

For instance, romantic comedy "Goodbye Mr. Loser" earned only 10.6 million yuan during the first week of its release in September 2015. After glowing recommendations from audience members on social media, the film reaped over 250 million yuan a week later.

"I'm really happy to see people focus more on the quality of the films," said Boqiao. "Films like 'Goodbye Mr. Loser' have all the merits of a decent comedy."

Ilka Zhang, a movie fan from Beijing, holds a similar view. "I believe in the future, only high-caliber comedies will be the ones that are remembered."


Despite the progress domestic comedies have made, many are not impressed.

"Some comedies stray from the point," said Ilka Zhang. "They might have made good money courtesy of their superstars, but if people cannot laugh along, it's meaningless."

Ilka is referring to comedies like "Devil and Angel" by director Deng Chao, which received criticism for its poor approach at making people laugh.

To draw comparisons, some recall the works of prestigious Chinese directors such as Feng Xiaogang, who pioneered the combination of comedy films and Spring Festival almost two decades ago.

"Comedies back then were closer to people's life," said Jason Zheng, a movie fan from Beijing. "The storylines are also far less predictable than those today, which could more easily draw the audience into laughter."

However, for Boqiao, there are indeed positives to take from some of the "bad" comedies nowadays. "You can see that the sales of 'Devil and Angel' dropped dramatically after being played for only a week. Our audience is becoming more perceptive."

As for Spring Festival, which often marks the reunion of Chinese families, many people are looking forward to the comedies scheduled on Feb. 8, the Lunar New Year's Day this year, to fit their festive mood.

"I'll see which one to watch then," said Jason Zheng. "I still have faith in Chinese comedies as long as people's tastes are getting better."

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