Patriotic blockbusters shine in National Day holiday season

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, October 10, 2019
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Posters of "My People, My Country," "The Captain" and "The Climbers" [Image courtesy of Huaxia Film and IMAX China]

Three tentpole domestic productions helped the National Day holiday film season to achieve new heights, grossing more than five billion yuan ($700 million), statistics from Alibaba's Beacon indicated.

To mark the 70th National Day, besides watching the massive military parade and mass pageantry in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, and then enjoying a magnificent gala organized by film director Zhang Yimou on Oct. 1, Chinese people also spent a lot of time in cinemas during the weeklong holiday, usually nicknamed "Golden Week."

The National Day film season actually started on the eve of the celebration, Sept. 30, when people were still working, but all the tentpole films opened that day, along with other smaller films still being screened in the market, bringing in 665.55 million yuan ($93.19 million). Oct. 1 would be the day that reached the peak, with all films earning 796.37 million yuan ($111.5 million), one of the highest single day records in China ever.

Beacon, a powerful box office tracking and big data marketing platform developed by Alibaba Group, showed that from Oct. 1 to Oct. 7, the total gross of all films screened in China during the holiday reached 4.38 billion yuan ($676.84 million), a 130% increase year-on-year, and a new record for the National Day holiday season.

The box office revenue on Chinese mainland totaled about 5 billion yuan ($700 million) during the eight-day time frame, which ran from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7, making it the highest-grossing National Day holiday film season in history. In addition, the nation's total cinema admissions during the holiday week totaled more than 117 million, also a record, prompting some Chinese film industry observers to talk of the "biggest National Day holiday film season of all time."

The 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China raised the public enthusiasm for Chinese films, especially the three productions -- "My People, My Country," "The Captain" and "The Climbers" – seen as capable of igniting patriotism and reflecting a moment of historical pride. Three domestic blockbusters contributed to the overwhelming majority of the box office sales.

"My People, My Country," directed by Chen Kaige and six other prominent Chinese directors - Xu Zheng, Ning Hao, Guan Hu, Zhang Yibai, Xue Xiaolu and Wen Muye–combines seven short films focusing on ordinary Chinese individuals who have grown up with New China and experienced seven significant historic moments. It has an all-star cast including Wu Jing, Ge You, Huang Bo, Simon Yam, Tong Liya and Zhang Jiayi. It grossed over 2.21 billion yuan ($310.97 million) by Oct. 7, becoming the seasonal champion.

"The Captain," directed by Andrew Lau and starring Zhang Hanyu and Yuan Quan, is a Chinese counterpart to the American drama "Sully." It is based on a true event involving Sichuan Airlines captain Liu Chuanjian, who saved the lives of 119 passengers with his calm handling of an emergency landing on May 14 last year. 

It earned nearly 1.98 billion yuan ($276.67 million) by Oct. 7. Actually, it moved to the single day top spot ahead of "My People, My Country" on the daily box office chart from Oct. 4 -- a perfect example of lagging counterattack. 

"The Climbers," directed by Daniel Lee, starring Zhang Ziyi, Wu Jing, Zhang Yi, Jing Boran with a cameo by Jackie Chan, is also based on true events about China's national mountaineering teams seeking to conquer Qomolangma (known in the West as Mount Everest) in 1960 and 1975. It grossed 823 million yuan ($115.23 million) by Oct. 7. 

Mu Chen, head of the Beacon Research Institute, said that while the number of admissions per screening during the National Day holiday, 45, was consistent with the average number achieved during this year's Spring Festival holiday, the most profitable Chinese film season -- demonstrating the high demand for national celebration films on the particular holiday this time -- audiences rated the three blockbusters with fairly high scores, which means the high quality supply on the content side.

More than 91 investors, film production companies and distributors invested in the three major films, giving them full support in terms of funding, marketing, and promotion on various platforms. Alibaba Pictures and Bona Film Group are the biggest winners clearly as the two worked together and both invested heavily in "My People, My Country" and "The Captain."

Alibaba Pictures also took over part of distribution work for the three films and its Beacon platform and the integrated resources from platforms such as Taobao, Alipay and Tmall in Alibaba system helped enhance the social influence of the films, the company said.

IMAX Corporation also reported a record-shattering box office gain during the National Day holiday. Driven by the strong performance of the three films, their IMAX versions grossed an estimated 105 million yuan ($14.8 million) across more than 640 IMAX theaters on the Chinese mainland over the seven-day period starting Oct. 1. The results mark IMAX China's best ever National Day holiday, up about 164% over the same period in 2018. 

"We are thrilled with these extraordinary National Day holiday results," said IMAX China CEO Chen Jiande. "We're convinced that our record-breaking box office and attendance figures speak not only to the strength of the IMAX brand, but also the industry as a whole."

The popularity of the Chinese blockbusters, often being called "mainstream films," also suggest the genre has achieved a mature upgrade from the stereotype of dull lecturing productions on Chinese revolutionary history. Chinese filmmakers have explored action, romance, disaster and war film elements for years to revive the genre so that the audience have revived their interests. 

Also, only 276 days into 2019, China's annual film box office revenue reached 50 billion yuan ($7 billion) on Oct. 3, passing the mark in the fewest days in history.

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