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What Does Hollywood Offer Chinese Films?
The Chinese film market recession has been a burning topic among industry insiders. Since the mid-1990s China has been importing movies from abroad, and the impact they are having has been a constant focus of serious attention.

Over the past decade the United States has replaced the former Soviet Union, Japan and France to become the largest movie exporter to China. Hollywood blockbusters such as Speed, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan and the recent Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Lord of Rings attracted massive market share in urban and rural China, reaping remarkable box office takings with their hi-tech effects, attractive plots and great artistic flare.

“Films know no boundaries. Foreign films are irresistible to local audiences,” said Vice Chairman Li Guomin of the China Film Association. “Economic and cultural globalization has set an historic trend. As long as we maintain certain criteria on importing films, we can use them to our advantage and develop our own local industry.”

Li said each year China imported 50-60 films. Superior quality films with huge box office revenues are called “dapian” in Chinese. Up to now, China has imported over 100 dapian. These films offer the Chinese a window to the status quo of world’s film industry. The Chinese film business can observe what their US counterparts are doing and learn up-to-date film production technologies, distribution techniques and promotional and marketing operations to develop the local industry which is still in its infancy.

Hollywood blockbusters lure more movie-goers and increase box office takings for domestic cinemas. Actually getting copies of dapian has become one of the most important means available for theaters to maintain their box office revenues. Suppose a cinema has a copy of an imported film for a week, its box office takings have then been secured for the rest of the month. The cinema can rest assured and screen domestic films in the rest of the period.

Imported films have vigorously propelled the production of home-grown films. By encountering the challenges of foreign films and the audience’s increased discrimination, Chinese film producers have had to transform their production concepts, enrich their film subjects and reform the film business from distribution through to marketing and screening. The Chinese government has accelerated reforms in the administration of the film and TV industry and worked out relevant economic policies and regulations.

Chinese filmmakers have been urged to create more films that cater to audience’s tastes. Actually many excellent domestic films, with huge box office takings, have been made in recent years such as Zhou Enlai and Choice of Life and Death. The concept of domestic blockbusters has gradually been accepted by Chinese audience with domestic films like Opium War and The Red Cherry have receiving good reviews.

In addition, entertainment-oriented films have also made progress in China. The Happy-New-Year comic flick made by Director Feng Xiaogang saw strong box office takings.

Film imports have pushed the implementation of a Chinese film production line system, composed of a central film distribution body and a few dispersed cinemas. The system adopts a structure of uniform and centralized management. So far, over 20 provinces in China have established 34 cross-regional film production lines, which control nearly 1,000 cinemas and secure some 90 percent of total box office takings in the country.

Insiders believe the film production line system, can effectively regulate the film distribution market and prevent the screening of bootlegged films, box office cover ups and pirated VCDs. What’s more, important cinemas within the system will be fortunate enough to have their facilities upgraded to multi-screen digital audio and video theaters with luxury seating, which will in turn generate even more profits for the organizations. Many cinemas in Shanghai and Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces have already seen larger audiences after their upgrades.

(China.org.cn by Guo Xiaohong, November 2, 2002)

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