Following the debut of the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean in China last week, another movie, The Italian Job has also been a hit, as Hollywood movies conclude their 2003 run in China, gaining impressive annual box office revenue.
Pirates of the Caribbean earned 10 million yuan (about 1.2 million US dollars) after its first week's screening, closely followed by the 15 million yuan (about 1.8 million US dollars) opening week box office of Matrix Revolution.
Hollywood blockbuster Titanic was a great success in China, bringing in 320 million yuan (about 39 million US dollars) annual box office revenue in 1998, exceeding one fifth of the country's total box office income in the year.
Since 1994, China has started to import a number of foreign films each year, and thereafter, Hollywood films including the Fugitive, Forrest Gump, Titanic, Matrix, The Lord of the Rings and others have become popular hits in China.
Weng Li, deputy general manager of the Film Exhibition and Distribution Corporation of China, said that China imported 20 foreign films annually and over 80 percent of them were from Hollywood.
Statistics show that there is a "box office potential" of 1 to 1.5 billion US dollars annually in China's movie market and the figure is expected to grow five percent annually. In the capital of Beijing, if each citizen watches five movies a year, box office income should hit 600 million yuan (about 73 million US dollars).
However, more Chinese people are concerned that the domestic movie industry could be harmed by the increasing number of imported films, especially after China's entry into the World Trade Organization.
An official with the State Administration of Radio Film and TV said: "We will smile and say sorry to those who are against importing films, because the government can't nurse losers in this industry any longer."
Yin Hong, professor with the Film and TV Communications Center of Qsinghua University, said that importing Hollywood movies seems a mixed blessing to the domestic film industry, most likely promoting renovation in the existing Chinese movie industry while introducing successful expertise to film making.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, directed by Taiwan-born director Ang Lee in 2001 gained great popularity among Westerners. And China's famous director Zhang Yimou's Hero has also illustrated the country's martial arts through delicately crafted scenes.
Chinese film producers have also learned from Hollywood to exploit marketing opportunities from movie byproducts through DVDs, soundtrack and related products.
(Xinhua News Agency December 5, 2003)