Directors promise no war during holiday rivalry

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 25, 2019
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Directors Zhang Yibai, Peter Chan, Xu Zheng, and Chen Sicheng share their insights and thoughts at the New Wave Industry Forum on "The Era of 'New Commercial Blockbusters' in Chinese Movies," an event of the 28th China Golden Rooster & Hundred Flowers Film Festival, held in Xiamen, Fujian province, Nov. 21, 2019. [Photo/VCG]

Directors of three separate tentpole films made commitment that neither they nor their teams would attack each other during the heated Spring Festival film season next year, as they attended a forum on Thursday during the 28th China Golden Rooster & Hundred Flowers Film Festival.

Director and actor Xu Zheng, who directs and stars in "Lost In Russia," Chen Sicheng, who directs "Detective Chinatown 3" and Peter Chan, director of "Leap" united at the New Wave Industry Forum: “The Era of 'New Commercial Blockbusters' in Chinese Movies," with director Zhang Yibai as the host in Xiamen, Fujian province.

Their new films will all debut on Chinese lunar New Year Day, falling on Jan. 25, 2020, launching a Spring Festival box office race, the most furious and profitable season. However, the three directors made a deal that they and their teams would never adopt any unfair and hostile practices in seeking the advantage.

During past Spring Festivals, some marketing teams of tentpole blockbusters have been known to employ underground services to try and create a bad image through the press and word-of-mouth for their rival films. The approaches including paying for bot attacks and generating thousands of bad reviews on movie rating websites and ticketing platforms, which would result in dragging rivals down into mud and making them lost showtime arrangements. 

Director Chen Sicheng and his cast members of "Detective Chinatown 3" pose for a photo at a press conference at the 28th China Golden Rooster & Hundred Flowers Film Festival, held in Xiamen, Fujian province, Nov. 22, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Darkhorse Marketing]

"Vicious competition will not bring good results. We should support one another and help the Chinese film industry to achieve new milestones," Chen Sicheng said. His most recent installment of the franchise "Detective Chinatown 2" grossed 3.39 billion yuan ($541 million) during 2018 Spring Festival.

Chen believed that the new era of commercial blockbusters required industrialization for films as a support for development, saying:"It is like soil, which can provide a better environment for plants. If the industry is bigger, there will be more possibilities."

At present, the profit model of traditional Chinese film companies is still very simple, relying mostly on box office revenue. However, Chen said he would develop merchandise, a TV series and more for the "Detective Chinatown" franchise to promote such industrialization.

Xu Zheng, who directed the hit comedy films "Lost in Thailand" (2012), "Lost in Hong Kong" (2015) and produced and starred in the phenomenal drama "Dying to Survive" that grossed 3.1 billion yuan ($451 million) last year, will enter the Spring Festival race for the first time. He said it was becoming increasingly hard to decide on a release date and season for a film to make maximum impact in China as there are more and more high-quality rivals.

"For me, as a filmmaker, I eventually felt that if you do your film right, you can release it on whatever date you like, and it will succeed," he said.

As the organizing committee has announced the Golden Rooster Award will be handed out annually rather than the previous practice of every two years, Xu commented at the forum that he was very much looking forward to this change. "This shows that our film productions are abundant. When a Chinese director wins a Golden Rooster Award, it should be seen as akin to winning something like Oscar. We will work hard and achieve that level and status for the Chinese film industry."

Director/actor Xu Zheng and his fellow cast members of "Lost In Russia" pose for photos at a press conference at the 28th China Golden Rooster & Hundred Flowers Film Festival, held in Xiamen, Fujian province, Nov. 22, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Maxtimes Culture]

Peter Chan, the Hong Kong director renowned for films including "Comrades: Almost a Love Story," "Perhaps Love" and "The Warlords," said he had gone through past eras of the Chinese film industry when there was no such concept as commercial blockbusters. 

However, when blockbuster era came, China's film market was at once trapped in a vicious circle. "The bigshot directors made films with big stars, the audience went to the theaters to see the spectacles, but things constantly change and develop," Chan recalled. 

In his view, the feedback from the market proves that Chinese audience's demands and appetite are constantly improving and changing. "Films like 'Dying to Survive' are not mainstream films -- they are more art-house films. However, they can achieve stunning box office performance, which is impossible in any other markets in the world. This is what encourages me to continue to make movies."

He added that the internet gave Chinese audience the right to vote, as they can voice their opinions and post reviews online very conveniently, their word-of-mouth influence becoming so huge as to decide a film's fate. "If a film suffers bad reviews, its box office performance will plunge in a day."

Chan will enter Spring Festival race for the first time, and he said he was a little nervous. "Leap," his new film on the Chinese women's national volleyball team starring veteran actress Gong Li, has provoked moviegoers and the general public's patriotism, enthusiasm and interest as the women's national volleyball team has been the pride of the Chinese people since it first claimed the world championship in 1981.  

The women's national volleyball team continues to be China's pride as it just beat Serbia on Sept. 28 this year, defending its World Cup crown with a record of 11 wins. This is China's 10th title in world major volleyball events, including the World Cup, the World Championships and the Olympic Games. As Chinese celebrated the triumph, Chan's film gained more attention and clicks online.

"When your film gets bigger, you cannot have a full say. There are investors and distributors who want to implement their tactics. It will be like a big gamble. Everyone wants better results and some may want to take other rivals down. However, we need to take control as best as we can to prevent derailing disaster," he said.

Director Zhang Yibai appealed to his three colleagues, as well as other filmmakers who didn't attend the forum but will join the Spring Festival race to present their films in the market in a fair, clean and harmonious way. 

As of now, there will be at least 10 films competing in the 2020 Spring Festival holiday season. The total gross of all Chinese blockbusters during the seven-day 2019 Spring Festival holiday reached 5.84 billion yuan ($829.67 million), a new peak for any film season in China, according to the State Film Administration.

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