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China Exclusive: Domestic films panned but still profitable


20:20, July 09, 2013

BEIJING, July 9 (Xinhua) -- A pair of domestic films have seen their box office earnings soar in recent days, despite a perceived lack of depth that has been criticized by film fans.

"Switch," which tells the story of a Chinese agent who battles against Japanese Yakuza and British mercenaries in a search for a Chinese scroll, has an average score of just 2.9 points out of a possible 10 points on Douban, a popular Chinese website for discussing films and other forms of entertainment.

The film's score on, a well-known film database website, is just 1.2 points.

"The film has set a new low for domestic films. There is no language to describe it," said viewer Han Jingfeng.

"Tiny Times," a domestic film directed by author-turned-director Guo Jingming, also has a poor score on Douban.

But the film, which depicts the love lives and budding careers of four female college students in Shanghai, has taken in a good amount of cash since debuting on June 27.

The film took in 77 million yuan (12.5 million U.S. dollars) the day it debuted, earning a total of 270 million yuan in its first four days. "Switch," which came out on June 9, took in 180 million yuan in its first four days, according to Entgroup, a Chinese entertainment industry research group.

"Audiences wonder why these films receive such scores and they are afraid of not being able to participate in conversations about them," Taiwanese film producer Li Lieh said when explaining how the panned films became so profitable.

"The rules for Chinese screens have changed. It's time to show off," wrote film critic Huang Xiake.

Statistics from Entgroup indicate that although similar "word-of-mouth" films typically have strong debuts, their box office earnings decrease rapidly with time.

The total box office for "Switch" is still hovering around 290 million yuan even weeks after its debut, with its box office takings for its first eight days accounting for more than 90 percent of its earnings, the group said.

Industry experts said attractive casts and a lack of comparable competitors helped the films take in more money.

Du Qingchun, an associate professor at the Beijing Film Academy, said "Tiny Times" has helped establish a tone for the film market, as it caters to contemporary tastes.

However, the criticism it has received will not help its earnings, he said.

Renowned film director Jia Zhangke said theaters that screen more high-brow films should be built, as such films are of high-quality but don't attract as many viewers.

"Separate theaters could be accepted by more people, as some people prefer commercial films, while others prefer more artistic ones," said film planner Wang Renkui.

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