China’s war epics ready to smash theaters in 2022 Spring Festival
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Published: Jan 27, 2022 07:50 PM
Promotional material of the film Watergate Bridge Photo: IC

Promotional material of the film Watergate Bridge Photo: IC

China's war epic Watergate Bridge, which is also known as The Battle at Lake Changjin II, will follow the step of its first sequel, to crown the box office of the 2022 Chinese Lunar New Year film schedule, according to Chinese film observers and data analyzed from film platforms. 

Ticketing platform Maoyan shows that a total of eight films with various themes are set to smash Chinese theaters during the Spring Festival holiday, the most important film season of a year. Experts predicted the total box office of the film schedule can go from 7 billion ($1.1 billion) to 8 billion yuan.

It is not surprising that films with the same genre are released on the same day. This can be seen that two science fiction films The Wandering Earth and Crazy Alien were released in 2019, and Kung Fu Yoga and Buddies in India, two films with strong Indian elements competed head-to-head in 2017's Spring Festival season. 

However, this is indeed the first time that two main melody films themed on the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (1950-53) are going to battle in such an important festival, Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times. 

"The two films being released on the same day is to undertake the mission of publicity, which is in line with the film industry's 14th five-year plan(2021-25)."

China Film Administration released the film industry's 14th five-year plan(2021-25) in 2021, which includes encouraging the industry to create more works, promoting correct values and traditional culture.

'Watergate Bridge' vs 'Snipers

Directed by well-known director Zhang Yimou and his daughter Zhang Mo, Snipers also tells the story happened during the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea. It picks up a true story of a Chinese sniper defeating American enemies in the War.

Media reported that this is the first time that Zhang Yimou's film is released during the Spring Festival film season. However, this time his work might not be able to defeat its strong competitor - Watergate Bridge.

"The winner will surely be the Watergate Bridge if we judge by box office. But if we judge it from the perspectives of film narrative, characterization, and artistic presentation, it will be indistinguishable," Shi said.

He analyzed that the two films' theme and background era are the same, but the production budget, cast, and the narrative perspective are different. Watergate Bridge shows a grand narrative with a panoramic display, while Snipers is to show the war through small angle, including some partial war plots.

Zhang Yimou told the reporter of CCTV that when he prepared for Snipers, the filming of The Battle at Lake Changjin has already started, so he wants to reflect the war from a different perspective.

"I believe the audience wants to see some difference [in the historical event]. We want to reflect the war from every angle, and this is also the law of making original films," he said. 

"To use an inappropriate analogy, Watergate Bridge is like a 'panorama,' while Snipers is more like a 'close-up.' The two films are not at the same order of magnitude. Watergate Bridge has an overwhelming advantage in production scale, film promotion and pre-sale situation," Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times.

Chinese ticketing platform Beacon under Ali Pictures, shows the pre-sale of Watergate Bridge has broken 100 million yuan ($15.82 million) as of Wednesday. 

However, if it wanted to topple over its first sequel, it would still be very challenging. 

"The time of releasing the two sequels is close, and moviegoers might experience aesthetic fatigue. Meanwhile, it is uncertain whether the audience is ready to watch a 149-minute film in Spring Festival," Xiao said.

The Battle at Lake Changjin was the highest-grossing film in the Chinese film market in 2021 by breaking the record of earning 5.78 billion yuan, according to Maoyan. 

Both film observers predicted that Watergate Bridge might top the box office by grossing about 3 billion yuan, while Snipers might earn about 1 billion yuan.

Who can be the 'dark horse'?

According to a report that Maoyan sent to the Global Times, film quality is still the key factor in determining the overall output of the market. 

Besides the two main melody films, the other six films include three animations targeted at teens audience and two comedies as well as one drama starring by the hit star Jackson Yee. 

Shi said comedy film Too Cool To Kill might be the dark horse from its cast and the production budget, while Xiao predicts Snipers might surprise the market under the promotion of the director Zhang Yimou who also directs the upcoming opening ceremonies of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

In 2021, the Spring Festival film season still broke a historical record by grossing 7.84 billion yuan despite the influence of the COVID-19 epidemic. 

In 2022, the two film experts said the upcoming Winter Olympic Games may divert the number of audiences. They predicted that the total box office of the most significant film season of the year could reach from 7 billion to 8 billion yuan. 

Unit: million yuan
Time: as of 6 pm Thu
Source: Beacon

Unit: million yuan Time: as of 6 pm Thu Source: Beacon