CJ China Cinema News – Thursday 1 June 2017

By Patrick von Sychowski | May 31, 2017 10:52 pm PDT
A jukebox of film selections. (image: Sohu)

Private cinema plans, FT’s China market overview, quota re-negotiations in August, “Dangal” to cross CNY  ¥1 billion, Fan Bingbing supports art-house, fixed-fee imports, Hong Kong’s cinema push, ‘vertical industry chain integration’, Dadi live cinema concert, pre-pay refunds, 3D glasses and cinema for the blind.

CineEurope 2017
Come at meet Celluloid Junkie at CineEurope 2017.

More details are emerging about private cinema operators’ plans, post SAPPRTF-recognition. BesTV plans to spend CNY  ¥3 billion (USD $441 million!) every year to buy high quality film rights, with a special focus on art-house films. Because of softening of demand for traditional shops, there is potential to push for good rental terms in malls. In Shanghai visiting a private cinema costs around CNY  ¥58 (USD $8.54) per hour. Sohu – 31 May 2017

Box office China vs. US. (graph: Nomura / FT)
Box office China vs. US. (graph: Nomura / FT)

Financial Times China has a long and detailed look at the cinema situation in the Mainland. It is not just that domestic films have failed to take off this year and that Hollywood is filling the void, but authorities are becoming tolerant of more violent films (“Logan”) or films featuring supernatural elements (Salazar’s ghost crew in the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean”) and “[s]ome analysts expect that the import quota for 34 foreign films will be quietly relaxed this year.” FT China – 31 May 2017

Re-negotiation discussions regarding film quota imports are due to kick off in August. “A group of about 12 Congresspeople and Senators will represent the US, although no names were attached. Those names may not be disclosed, the statement said.” They may be kicking in an open door as more foreign films have been screened in China, including during former ‘blackout’ periods, due to the declining performance of domestic films. In fact, foreign films have dominated all three major holidays so far this year. China Film Insider – 23 May 2017

Danga - even bigger in China than India.

Variety’s Patrick Frater looks at “Why ‘Dangal’s’ Triumph in China Could Be a Game-Changer for India” approaching CNY  ¥1 billion (USD $147 million) at the Chinese box office and set to become one of the 25 most successful films of all time, having just been granted a one-month cinema extension. “For companies representing Indian content, the success of “Dangal” in China is an eye-opener. The film cost a reported $20 million to produce and grossed $83.7 million in India.” Worth remembering that Aamir Khan is a particularly talented and issues-oriented star and film-maker who has cultivated a following in China. Hard to replicate him. Variety – 21 May 2017

Fan Bingbing in Cannes with Pedro Almodovar. (photo: News.cn)
Fan Bingbing in Cannes with Pedro Almodovar. (photo: News.cn)

Fresh from her jury duty in Cannes, Chinese movie star Fan Bingbing calls for more support for the country’s nascent art-house cinema sector. Commenting on the domestic situation, she is quoted as saying, “with so many commercial films dominating the box office charts, arthouse films face financing, shooting, and distribution problems.” Fan had a domestic hit with the distinctly art-house oriented “I Am Not Madam Bovary,” but the film was the exception to the rule that blockbusters rule the multiplex. The Nationwide Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas is only just getting started. China Film Insider – 31 May 2017

Revenant Your Name Hacksaw Ridge

While import restrictions apply to revenue share films, more films are acquired on a fixed-fee basis. There is a growing number of distributors willing to pay large sums to sequre films, not just for cinema but also for online distribution, highlighted by Weiying Technology’s purchase of nine Wild Bunch titles in Cannes. Hollywood titles like “The Revenant”, “Fury”, “Hacksaw Ridge”, Japanese animation “Your Name”, “A Dog’s Purpose” and the most recent “Resident Evil” were all bought and distributed this way. Meanwhile Weiying has denied that guaranteed a minimum box office of CNY  ¥2.6 billion (USD $383 million) for “Transformers: The Last Knight” in mainland cinemas. One Entertainment Watch – 29 May 2017

Hong Kong's Metroplex cinema. (photo: Patrick von Sychowski)
Hong Kong’s Metroplex cinema. (photo: Patrick von Sychowski)

Hong Kong was once the Hollywood of Asia, with the output of the Shaw Brothers outpacing that of their Warner counterparts on the other side of the Pacific. Yes, even though cinema revenue doubled from HK$950 million (USD $122 million) in 2005 to HK$1.9 billion (USD $244 million) in 2015, this was largely due to Hollywood blockbusters. While HK film makers are finding success in China with films like “The Mermaid”, HK’s government has begun mandating cinemas as part of real estate developments of malls and stations to counter further cinema decline. JLL – 15 May 2017

The outlook for China’s cinema sector: ‘vertical industry chain integration’. That is the analysis from Sina Finance. It also notes that 40% of growth in the number of recent screens has come from Tier 4 and Tier 5 cities. But increased viewing from ticket subsidies has never reached these cities in regions like Xinjiang, Tibet and Yunnan. It sees China following the trajectory of cinema growth in US, where a decade of growth to 1999 then led to consolidation around the majors. Sina Finance – 22 May 2017

Dadi's Wolf concert in cinema. (photo: Dadi)
Dadi’s Wolf concert in cinema. (photo: Dadi)

Dadi has held the first of its event cinema concerts, except rather than transmitting a live concert to cinemas, the concert was performed live in a cinema. ZJ Chinanews – 31 May 2017

No films and no refunds at Coffee Cinema. (image: LZnews)
No films and no refunds at Coffee Cinema. (image: LZnews)

As smaller private cinema operators go under, customers complain that their pre-pay cards are not being honoured or re-funded. Getting cinema goers to buy pre-paid cards to be redeemed against discounted or ‘unlimited’ viewing is a way for cinemas to compete with online platforms. But customers in Guangxi Liuzhou City found out that with no written agreement their pre-paid cards are wortless when the local cinema who sold them shut. CQN – 22 May 2017

China 3D audience

Chinese cinema goers are frustrated that they can’t re-use 3D glasses in different cinemas. “Now the screenings are mostly 3D movies, but most of theaters do not provide free glasses. But every time I watch movies I try on five or six different [old] glasses and sometimes the effect is very poor,” one consumer in Wenzhou complained. Ghosting seems to be a major problem. Several cinemas in the city have also been warned by authorities for selling 3D glasses without proper logo. Under “China Product Quality Law” goods sold must identify the product and source of origin. 66WZ – 24 May 2017

Blind children visiting cinema in Anhui. (photo: Anhui News)
Blind children visiting cinema in Anhui. (photo: Anhui News)

The 21st of May was National Disability Day in China. As a special treat 55 blind children in Anhui Province were treated to a cinema visit to experience “Hear Me“, a 2009 romantic-drama about a young man who falls for a hearing-impaired woman. Audio description for visual impaired in China is usually just a room with a television, chairs and a microphone for the audio description, so a proper cinema visit is a treat indeed for these children. Anhuinews – 22 May 2017

Patrick von Sychowski
Follow me