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No shortcuts to success for Chinese filmmakers


08:46, August 01, 2013

The Chinese film industry has seen some rosy figures in the first half of this year, with total box office earnings fetching up to 11 billion yuan. Four low-budget movies have broken the benchmark of 500 million yuan, a figure even blockbusters couldn’t hope to obtain years ago. But while many are hoping to strike it rich in this promising market, experts warn that commercial success should not be the only concern.

In 2012, the number of imported films in China increased to 25, which had a huge impact on domestic films that were doing poorly. But the market recovered quickly, marked by the comedy "Lost in Thailand" last December, which raked in 1.3 billion yuan, becoming the most profitable Chinese film in history.

This year, four domestic films have continued that trend. The comedy "Journey to the West Conquering the Demons" earned 1.2 billion, urban love tale "Finding Mr. Right" 520 million, campus romance "So Young" 720 million, and "American Dreams in China" pocketed 540 million yuan. Experts say the success of these movies comes down mostly to their realistic themes.

"The stories are told like they are happening near us, the characters are touchable. We can feel what they feel, which may explain their success," film expert Wang Tianyun said.

Also, people born after the 1980s and 1990s have become mainstream movie viewers. That has contributed to the popularity of a new generation of directors, who know how to cater to younger audiences.

Meanwhile, the number of film screens in China has increased by leaps and bounds. At the end of last year, there were 13,118 screens in China. The number increased by 2,300 in the first half of this year alone. That means 12.5 screens have been built on a daily basis.

The fact that domestic films have surpassed imports at the box office has boosted the confidence of Chinese filmmakers. But that has resulted in critical failures like "Switch" and "Tiny Times". Some say these films may make money, but they lack logic and send the wrong social message.

"To cater to the market, some directors add all the popular elements into a film, to make it more like a hodgepodge rather than an original creation," expert Gao Jun said.

Tom Hooper, director of the two Oscar winning films "King’s Speech" and "Les Miserables", says originality and commercial success don’t have to be contradictory. Deep-thinking can also be entertaining. Just ask actor-turned-director Keanu Reeves, who took five years to make "Man of Taichi".

Many elements go into a good movie, but it appears that creativity, originality and honesty are key ingredients for lasting success.

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