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Movie makers seek to please Chinese (2)

By Li Xiaokun and Liu Wei (China Daily)

08:56, August 30, 2012

A promising market

These are indeed wise moves for an increasingly important Chinese movie-going market.

According to the Motion Picture Association of America, US domestic box office takings in 2011 fell to a 16-year low.

Ticket revenue in the world's largest movie market fell 3.5 percent to $10.2 billion, while the estimated number of tickets sold dropped 4.4 percent to 1.28 billion, the lowest figure since 1995's 1.26 billion.

On the other hand, overseas revenues of US films surged 7 percent to $22.4 billion in 2011.

In 2011, China's box-office revenue was 13.1 billion yuan ($2.06 billion), double what it was in 2009, according to China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

Domestic ticket sales in 2012 reached 10 billion yuan as of Aug 16, raising expectations for the final annual figure to hit 18 billion yuan and surpass Japan to become the world's second-largest movie market.

Japanese media also noted the trend. The Tokyo Shinbun newspaper on Aug 11 quoted a local movie reporter saying that Japanese roles in US movies were prettified after the 1980s as the Japanese market rapidly expanded and became a major destination of American exports.

"Now, the same situation falls on Chinese roles in US movies," he said.

Investment on the rise

Hollywood roles are also being taken up by Chinese actresses popular in China to lure this lucrative market.

The trailer of Cloud Atlas, a science-fiction movie directed by Lana Wachowski, was released worldwide on July 28, and Zhou Xun portrayed three roles in it.

In June, Fan Bingbing's name also appeared in the cast of The Moon and the Sun released by Bliss Media, a production company in Hollywood.

Last year, Xu Qing was invited to join Looper, a Hollywood science-fiction movie. She portrayed the wife of the protagonist, played by Bruce Willis.

Later, Yu Nan announced she will join The Expendables 2, while Li Bingbing confirmed in October that she was shooting Resident Evil: Retribution as character Ada Wong and fights zombies alongside Milla Jovovich.

"In the era of globalization, Hollywood cannot ignore Chinese actors just as major US companies cannot ignore small Chinese companies," said Wu Yulan, deputy dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Media under the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. The school is in Wuhan, capital city of Central China's Hubei province.

US film company DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc on Aug 7 announced plans to build a $3.14 billion theme park in Shanghai and open it in 2016.

The studio's newly formed China joint venture, Oriental DreamWorks, also announced it will make the next Kung Fu Panda movie, the third installment in the series, in China for release in 2016.

One day later, Cameron Pace Group, co-founded by Avatar director James Cameron and long-time business partner Vince Pace, set up a division in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin and launched its first film project, a 3-D documentary on Beijing.

"I am making a big investment and forming partnerships here in China," Cameron told a news conference on Aug 8. "We are very excited to be part of the historic transformation of media and entertainment from 2-D to 3-D. We believe the future of entertainment is in 3-D, and the future of 3-D is in China."

Cameron's Titanic and its 3-D version both swept China's box office. When the original version was screened in 1998, it grossed 360 million yuan and was the highest-grossing film in China for 11 years until Transformers 2 broke the record in 2009. Titanic 3-D raked in an amazing 900 million yuan.

In 2010, 3-D epic Avatar brought in 1.2 billion yuan and was the best-performing film at China's box office so far.

With the box office soaring 30 percent every year since 2003, China has become the new land of temptation for Hollywood studios.

China has been making moves to further open its market. A deal hammered out in February has increased the annual quota for foreign films in theaters to 34 from the original 20, and raised the foreign share of ticket sales from 13 to 25 percent.

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