When a Chinese IT giant bought the personal computer branch of international IT conglomerate IBM on December 10, 2004, the Chinese film House of Flying Daggers was being shown in North America's mainstream cinema circuits. Well received by local viewers, the film's box office income has reportedly reached about 450 million yuan (US$54.2 million).
"The box office income is no big deal compared with many other Hollywood blockbusters, but the film's successful entry into a major overseas mainstream market means a lot to the Chinese movie industry," said Zhu Yongde, director of China Motion Picture Promotion International.
Previously, a couple of Chinese films such as director Feng Xiaogang's Big Shot's Funeral (Da Wan'er), Zhang Yang's Beautiful New World (Meili Xin Shijie) and Shower (Xizao), Lu Chuan's Missing Gun (Xunqiang) and He Ping's Heroes of Heaven and Earth (Tiandi Yingxiong) have been introduced into overseas market but were relegated to some art-house theatres or released in the form of made-for-TV movies, video tapes and DVDs, Zhu explained.
The entry into the global market will facilitate the economic return of Chinese films and reduce the risks a film investor may face when dealing with a domestic market that is still filled with irregularities, Zhu said.
"If a Chinese film did a good job on international markets, the investor will find it easier to finance his next film," said Wang Zhongju, CEO of Beijing Huayi Brothers Taihe Film Co.
Wang said that the financing of most films he produced like Cell Phone, A World Without Thieves, Big Shot's Funeral, and Missing Gun have benefited from the company's high visibility in global markets.
"Counting on our previous successes, overseas investors are happy to cooperate with us in shooting more feature films," Wang said in an interview with China Culture Daily News.
"China boasts a potentially powerful production capacity and is rich in talent. With the 'sleeping lion' awakening up, it won't be too long before Chinese films enter the global market on a massive scale," Zhu predicts.
"But not right now," he admits. "Weak awareness of target audience groups and niche markets has hindered many Chinese film companies in overseas markets," he says.
Since the inception of the promotion centre, a non-profit organization sponsored by the Film Bureau, Chinese Film Producers Association, China Film Group Corporation and Film Channel of CCTV, early last year, Zhu and his 20-member team have been helping Chinese film enterprises to promote their films at several international film festivals and film fairs.
He found that local film distributors and moviegoers know little about Chinese film companies, film artists and film producers. "Most of my business counterparts from Europe and North America can only mention such big names as Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi. "They are unfamiliar with the many new stars and artists on the rise in Chinese film industry. Lack of communication and understanding certainly prevents them from buying films directed by the younger generation of filmmakers and with movie stars they have never heard of," Zhu said.
In 2005, the promotion centre will launch a series of publicity campaigns in Southeast Asia, North America and Europe for home-grown movies created by both State-owned film studios and private film companies, Zhu said.
(China Daily January 6, 2005)