Chinese blockbuster The Eight Hundred debuts, bringing long-awaited warmth to film market

By Huang Lanlan Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/21 20:33:40

People line up at a Shanghai cinema for a prescreening of The Eight Hundred on Friday. Photo: IC

The blockbuster Chinese war epic film The Eight Hundred debuted on Friday, expecting to bring a long-awaited boost to China's ailing film industry and save a renowned listed Chinese film company that had suffered great loss, with tens of thousands of people heading to cinemas across the country for the long-awaited production.

The film is expected to bring a huge amount of revenue to the Chinese domestic box office after months of cinema closures, industry insiders told the Global Times. It has so far grossed more than 78.4 million yuan ($11.4 million) as of 5:00 pm on Friday, contributing 85.2 percent of the day's total box office, with 57.5-percent of screening arrangements showing the film, according to statistics by movie ticketing platform Maoyan.

The movie's market performance had brought China's listed film companies some good news. Huayi Brothers, which co-produced the film and reportedly lost nearly 4 billion yuan in 2019, enjoyed a 24 percent increase from August 1 to 20, observers said. Several of its peers have also experienced consecutive days of growth.

The CGV Anting cinema in Shanghai arranged 17 screenings of The Eight Hundred on Friday. Nearly half of the tickets for this film had been booked by 10:30 am, said the manager of the cinema, surnamed Jiang.

"Our cinema has never been as busy as today since the coronavirus epidemic," Jiang told the Global Times. "We are very much looking forward to watching the film bring back audiences and create more revenue for cinemas across the country."

Directed by Guan Hu, The Eight Hundred depicts Chinese soldiers' four-day defense of a warehouse against the invading Japanese army during the Battle of Shanghai in 1937, regarded as one of the most "tragic" battles faced by Chinese people in World War II.

It is an unforgettable piece of history for ordinary Chinese people, said a Beijing-based audience member, surnamed Chen. "Invaders will never succeed in conquering this country, and the Chinese people will fight invading enemies until the end," she told the Global Times on Friday.

The film, with a production budget of 700 million yuan, is the first "real blockbuster" screened at Chinese cinemas, which reopened in July after the epidemic situation had improved domestically, said movie critic and film producer Tan Fei.

Tan believes the film will ignite people's enthusiasm to buy a ticket and experience the long-lost feeling of sitting at an "actual" cinema with its A-list cast and high production quality. 

"Moreover, the film is particularly opportunistic as it shows China's national spirit of 'rising up' to difficulties with perseverance and courage, echoing that Chinese people will spare no effort in the fight against the coronavirus," Tan told the Global Times on Friday.

One audience member, Wu (pseudonym), agreed. The movie is encouraging not only to him, but also to other Chinese people due to the epidemic and current international situation, he told the Global Times. "The film really made my blood boil," he said.

The Eight Hundred had earlier cheered up the domestic market with both profit and praise it received through its limited screenings. It scored a record-breaking 234 million yuan from the box office during its five-day limited release starting on August 14, and was marked with a 7.9/10 on popular review site Douban.

Tan predicts the film's total box office will surpass 2 billion yuan based on current virus-control regulations, which requires theaters to ensure the size of their audiences does not exceed 50 percent of their normal capacity.

The movie will encourage several upcoming domestic and imported blockbusters, such as Zhong Guo Nü Pai ("Chinese Women's Volleyball Team") and Tenet, to speed up their releases at Chinese theaters and benefit from China's recovering film market.

"It shoulders the responsibility of warming the Chinese film market," he joked.


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