Chinese film market in 2021 partially reaches goals of the 14th Five-Year Plan for the industry despite the pandemic
Published: Nov 22, 2021 07:52 PM
A poster of the film <em>the Battle at Lake Changjin</em> hangs up outside a cinema in Shanghai on Thursday. Photo: CFP

A poster of the film the Battle at Lake Changjin hangs up outside a cinema in Shanghai on Thursday. Photo: CFP

The Chinese mainland film market has already achieved several of the goals set out in the recently released 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) for the film industry. According to film industry analysts, data shows an optimistic blueprint for expanding the influence of domestic movies to serve the country’s aim of building a powerful country in terms of culture. 

“The plan is an indispensable guide to changing China from a country that produces a large number of films to a country with competitive films. The formulation of these goals is also to anchor the goal of building a powerful country in terms of culture in 2035, and is to place Chinese film development at the top of the national strategy,” Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times. 

Chinese film ticketing platforms Maoyan and Beacon have provided solid data to show that the world’s largest film market has the confidence and potential to achieve the goals set out in the plan.

Released by the China Film Administration earlier in November, the plan calls for at least 10 high-quality products and 50 films a year that earn more than 100 million yuan ($15.6 million) at the Chinese box office, while requiring domestic movies account for more than 55 percent of the total annual box office in the region.

Quality is key

According to Maoyan, as of Thursday, 34 domestic films grossed over 100 million yuan in 2021, falling short of the 50 goal. 

The main challenge to realizing the goal is the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the outbreak of the pandemic, the number of movies that reached the standard in 2020 dropped to 19. But in fact, the Chinese film market reached that goal in 2017, with 50 Chinese theatrical films grossing more than 100 million yuan for the first time. It later slightly fell in 2018 and 2019, with only 44 and 47 films breaking 100 million yuan respectively. From 2015 to 2019, 45 films on average had reached the goal set by the plan. 

While 2021 did not reach the 50 target, it did meet the goal when it came to the quality of the films. A total of 11 Chinese films in 2021 earned a 9/10 or higher on Maoyan, including hit tear jerker comedy Hi, Mom (5.41 billion yuan) and war epic The Battle at Lake Changjin (5.685 billion yuan as of Monday afternoon ) , with the both getting a 9.5/10 score on Maoyan.

This data shows that the films with solid word of mouth are able to earn strong support from Chinese moviegoers and therefore do well at the box office.

The plan fully takes into account the demands of the Chinese audience, according to a report Maoyan sent to the Global Times.

Some film insiders also told the Global Times the better stories are the core factor that has allowed domestic films to defeat Hollywood in the Chinese film market, especially stories that arouse empathy in Chinese moviegoers. 

Beacon, another Chinese ticketing platform under Alibaba Pictures, also shows that the increasingly perfect scheduling of the film market is also a positive factor to fulfill the plan. 

Statistics show that in addition to traditional key film periods such as the Chinese New Year, the National Day Holiday and the May Day Holiday, some shorter holiday periods such as the QingmingFestival, Mid-Autumn Festival and some popular holidays targeting certain groups including the Qixi Festival have also become competitive windows for films.

Zhang Rongdi, an analyst at the Dean of Beacon Research Department, told the Global Times that high-quality films are now able to screen during other suitable times and perform well instead of trying to squeeze into traditional golden periods.

Further improvement 
While advancements have been made, there are still some challenges that must be dealt with. 

According to Shi, China’s top blockbusters have not been able to perform as well as that in overseas markets. 

“Although we have replaced Hollywood as the largest movie ticket warehouse worldwide, the influence of our movie culture is still not satisfying,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the market share of small and medium-sized Chinese movies is too low compared to big-budget blockbusters. Shi said that a balance must be struck when it comes to film production and the market, and that film producers should not rely too much on key screening periods to earn big at the box office, but devote more efforts to film creation.