​Smart Cinema USA provides international audiences easy access to Chinese films

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, November 6, 2019
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The US version of Smart Cinema was officially launched at the 2019 Chinese American Film Festival & Chinese American TV Festival's welcome banquet on Sunday in Los Angeles, giving American audiences yet another platform to watch Chinese films.

Jack Gao, CEO of Smart Cinema and his partners at the official launch ceremony of Smart Cinema USA in Los Angeles, California, United States, Nov. 3, 2019 [Photo courtesy of Smart Cinema]

Smart Cinema USA is a partnership between Smart Cinema and Well Go USA. It ran trials since July 25 this year in the North American market and screened 12 Chinese-made films, such as "On the Balcony" and "Wrath Of Silence" on its app. Smart Cinema has been marketed as a "pocket cinema" that mainly carries new releases and entertains users on a pay-per-view basis.

"Smart Cinema USA can present the latest and hottest Chinese theatrical releases directly to American audiences via mobile internet through a simple click. This will create more incremental value  in Chinese films' overseas markets," said Jack Gao, CEO of Smart Cinema and the former senior vice president of Wanda Cultural Industrial Group and CEO of International Investments and Operations of the Dalian Wanda Group. 

Gao also added that traditional film distribution channels in overseas markets are dominated and controlled by an oligarchy of major film studios, which has made it very difficult for Chinese films to find their audiences in normal ways and stage massive movie releases outside China. 

He added that he has constantly paid close attention to the demands of the millions of overseas Chinese. "There are tens of thousands of Chinese students in the United States wanting to see Chinese blockbusters during festive periods such as China's traditional Spring Festival season, but they can't due to overseas copyright restrictions," Gao said, pointing out that Smart Cinema USA can finally solve this problem.

Smart Cinema USA uses 4G/5G, cloud computing and other latest technologies to deliver the most recent and popular Chinese films to overseas audiences. Furthermore, the platform is designed to suit the habits of North American users. The whole product is localized with targeted features in terms of its interface & content language, login & payment methods etc.

In Gao's eyes, Smart Cinema's mission is not to steal box office revenue from physical theaters. "We are here to create incremental value for the Chinese film market and to expand the potential of its film industry. We can give people everywhere who have access to mobile internet and smart phones the ability to watch films, even in places where there's not a single cinema in sight. At the same time, the revenue generated will be counted as part of a film's total box office gross earnings, which makes us different from other video streaming websites."

On Sept. 20, a film to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, "Mao Zedong 1949," became the first Chinese film to be released at the same time in both Chinese domestic theaters and Smart Cinema's foreign apps, including the U.S. trial version. On the day of its debut, more than 1,000 North American viewers watched the film on Smart Cinema USA and later during China's 7-day National Day holiday window, while nearly 4,000 moviegoers paid to watch the film on the app, according to the executive.

"Its success shows that this is a verified and successful approach for Chinese films to go overseas. From now on, domestic films will have a voice in overseas markets, opening up new paths and new models for Chinese culture to spread across the world," he pointed out.

Currently, 17 Chinese films such as "Looking Up," "Dying To Survive," "Men on the Dragon," "Chasing the Dragon II" and "Cao Cao and Yang Xiu" are licensed and available on the Smart Cinema USA app, which can provide advanced 2K-standard screening on mobile platforms. What's more, Smart Cinema USA also provides a “commentator service” to explain the films' cultural background should American audiences not understand certain Chinese cultural connotations and elements. This unique service was a result of a collaboration with film producers, film experts, cross-cultural communication experts and will help Americans understand more about China.

Smart Cinema USA is also a partner of the 15th annual Chinese American Film Festival, as it represents an alternative choice and the newest trend for the world's film distribution and screening. 

A special screening section called "Online Panorama" on the app was designed to coincide with the festival and was also a highlight of the event. Through this, American and Canadian audiences can watch 15 specially featured films including "Guilt by Design," "Coward Hero," "Daughter of Shanghai" and "The Secret of China" within a four-month window period - from now until next year's Spring Festival. "Guilt by Design," a film that is currently showing in China, but has not opened in other international markets yet, can now be seen on Smart Cinema USA.

The U.S. launch is a continuation of a string of successful overseas launches by Smart Cinema in Italy and Spain in September 2018 and also signals its launch in the world's most mature and biggest market. In the future, the app will also be launched in South Korea and the Chinese-speaking regions of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. 

"Based on mobile internet technology and applications, Smart Cinema will continue to explore overseas channels, optimize its services, and bring more high-quality Chinese films to 60 million overseas Chinese and audiences who are interested in Chinese culture," Gao said of his vision.

Through its Chinese version, which was launched in May 2018, Smart Cinema has screened more than 200 films on its platform, mostly lesser-known features, ethnic minority films and art-house films, and the total number of tickets sold on the platform reached two million.

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