Watch Your Back, Brad Grey—Chinese Cinema Ready to Take on the World

Banquet

More and more Chinese industry is starting to look like America in the early part of the 20th century. First their car business began booming— sales in January were up an astounding 124% over the same period a year earlier. Now, that other distinctly American industry is taking robust hold in China: film.

In some ways, of course, the Chinese fascination with and skill in creating memorable films is nothing new—this is the country, after all, that gave the world martial arts flicks and the Hong Kong action genre, with such breakout superstars as Bruce Lee (American born; Chinese raised), Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, and the director John Woo. But as a viable domestic industry, the country has raised its game considerably over the last year alone. Revenues at the Chinese box office climbed to around $909 million in 2009, 30% higher than just five years ago, when ticket sales took in about $220 million. And there were 456 feature films made in China last year, 50 more than in 2008. Thirty-four distributors now compete for the 4,723 Chinese movie screens (a far cry from the 40,000 screens in the United States, true, but struggling domestic theaters suggest there isn't enough quality product to go around, anyway).

So what accounts for this surge in cinephiles? Primarily it is due to industry reforms implemented in 2002, when the previously state-controlled production and distribution system was busted wide open through the allowance of private funding to flow to filmmakers, producers, and distributors. The success that the active conglomerate Huayi Brothers Media company found in securing bank financing and a listing on the Chinese stock exchange, Shenzhen, has inspired others to follow suit.

All these impulses toward cinematic art and commerce may prove to be good news for American companies, too. Last year the U.S.-based real estate company Entertainment Properties Trust inked a deal to develop new Chinese multiplexes to accommodate the growing demand. Surely there will be additional opportunities for American importers, distributors, producers, and developers, as the young Chinese market matures. Should that happen, more folks in the States will be seeing films like the 2002 Chinese smash hit Hero, a masterful epic set in ancient China, and fewer movies like The Hot Chick starring Rob Schneider, an American effort also released in 2002.

[Via: Beijing Review]

Image: BR

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