Executives explore how to restart China's film industry

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, July 29, 2020
Adjust font size:
Film executives pose for a photo at the opening forum of the 23rd Shanghai International Film Festival, held in Shanghai, July 25, 2020. [Photo courtesy of SIFF]

Film executives discussed how to get China's film industry back on track after the COVID-19 pandemic at the opening forum of the 23rd Shanghai International Film Festival.

The festival opened five days after Chinese cinemas reopened on July 20. However, the 6-month pandemic triggered paralysis since the Spring Festival caused thousands of cinemas and studios to close down forever. 

According to Lighthouse, a box office tracker and entertainment big data platform, since July 20, there have been about 416,600 screenings arranged across the country, and the total gross of all films is 109.39 million yuan. More than 5,200 cinemas resumed work by July 27, which accounts for about 47.5% of all Chinese movie theaters.

Li Jie, senior vice president of Alibaba Pictures and CEO of Taopiaopiao under China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, said at the forum that the next two weekends will be crucial. 

"We can see that the audience's confidence in returning to cinemas is slowly recovering; in the next two weeks, we are confident that box office income will recover to two-thirds of its value during the same period last year. Audiences have waited for 180 days, and we need to present high-quality content to them in a better way," he said.

Li shared that Alibaba shouldered immense pressure from ticket refunds after the cinemas closed during the COVID-19 outbreak in China. At the same time, Alibaba helped fellow industry practitioners overcome the difficulties through means of capital, materials and technologies. "As we explore technology solutions in every link of the movie industry, we will focus on making high-quality productions, which will boost the industry's confidence. With all our joint-efforts, the Chinese film industry will eventually recover."

Lighthouse also released the Annual Report on China's Film and Television Industry at the forum. The report suggested that China would have generated 67.1 billion yuan, a 4.4% increase year-on-year, at the box office in 2020 if there was no pandemic. But now, it estimated that the total annual box office revenue will lose nearly 50 billion yuan. However, the report said that its survey results suggested that in the long term, the audience has great anticipation for the recovery of the film industry and will favor patriotic, joyful films and stories in the medical, military and comedy genres to seek comfort.

"Although movies are not necessary for human existence, they are necessary for people to pursue the good life," said Cheng Wu, vice president of China's internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd and CEO of Tencent Pictures. Cheng said that every challenge and crisis is an opportunity for an industry or a company to reflect on themselves and become stronger.

Due to the pandemic's impact, the patterns of the global film industry have been reshaped; for example, video-streaming platforms can get more high-quality content while many traditional film companies have started to build their own streaming platforms, such as Disney+ and HBO Max. In China, Xu Zheng's "Lost in Russia" debuted online, and the most recent example is "Double World," a fantasy adventure film that made its online debut in both China and overseas in late July thanks to a deal with iQiyi and Netflix.

The Tencent executive believes that the new experience brought about by the combination of new technology and content will be a new normal in the future. "If the film industry practitioners and companies do not want to make progress and are willing to stay in low-level, homogeneous content production -- even if their films are not eliminated by streaming media -- they will definitely be eliminated by other new content and technological means. We have seen the unique experience of a film. Filmmakers can better combine modern technology and film art through better creation, better content, higher quality, and more active application and exploration," he said.

Alibaba's Li added that there is no competition between streaming media movies and theatrical movies. On the contrary, they will form a virtuous circle. Online movies will force the production cost of theater movies to drop further, and theater movies will set high standards and benchmarks for internet movies. "From a certain perspective, this is the way of integration we have to accept. I think we should embrace the change."

Yu Dong, chairman of Bona Film Group, repeatedly mentioned the two keywords of "unity" and "confidence" at the forum. He believes that the most important thing is to speed up the restoration of film creation. "It is not only a production line issue for the film industry but, more importantly, artistic creation. Therefore, I think it is necessary to restore the confidence of creators and give them more encouragement and support. The audience is also waiting for new films to come out."

He revealed that China's remaining backlogs of 400 - 500 films can only hold the market until next March or April. "We need to speed up creation, this is very urgent," he pointed out, adding that the whole industry should unite, "the time to fight alone has passed, we should face the difficulties and work together."

Wang Changtian, president of Beijing Enlight Media, is concerned about small and medium-sized enterprises in the film industry. "During the pandemic, they have encountered more difficulties than large enterprises," he said. His company has provided financial assistance or project development support to cooperating companies and investors. 

These companies have looked at two major directions to create content for the next year: One is making films to pay tribute to the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Communist Party of China, and the other is developing films about the medical heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter