Patriotic works set to give Chinese box office a shot in the arm over National Day holidays
Cinematic celebration
Published: Sep 26, 2022 07:36 PM
Promotional material for the movie <em>Home Coming</em> Photo: Courtesy of Douban

Promotional material for the movie Home Coming Photo: Courtesy of Douban

The weeklong National Day holidays are one of three golden periods for releasing new movies. With the third 2022 golden period less than a week away, Chinese moviegoers are already talking online about which movies they plan to see and predicting which they think will perform the best at the box office. 

Seven films are set to debut during the National Day holidays (October 1-7). Four of these are "main melody" films - realistic patriotic works focusing on stories about the nation, the Communist Party of China and the People's Liberation Army - and three are animated movies.

Data from Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan shows that the total pre-sale box office for these movies has surpassed 40 million yuan ($5.5 million) as of Monday, with the film Born to Fly, about Chinese test pilots, topping the list.

Movie industry insiders predict that the four patriotic films will be the big winners during the National Day holidays, hopefully giving a big boost to the Chinese 2022 box office, which has been on the road to recovery and currently sits at 25.5 billion yuan. 

Film critics note that these "main melody" movies are a good fit for the atmosphere of the National Day holidays. 

"Looking at pre-sales, the total box office of the seven-day holiday might be able to surpass 3 billion yuan," Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based film critic, told the Global Times.

Chinese stories

The seven films set for release range from stories about PLA Air Force, overseas evacuation, breakthroughs in industrial technology and family.

Born to Fly, directed by Liu Xiaoshi and starring Wang Yibo, Hu Jun and Zhou Dongyu, is set to hit theaters on Friday. In the film, young, excellent Chinese pilots put China's self-produced stealth fighter through its paces and protect the motherland's territorial air space without fear of difficulties or danger.

The film's pre-sale box office has surpassed 26 million yuan as of Monday. Netizens on Douban have commented that they are curious about the film's focus on test pilots and long to see more about the country's strong air force.

Next on the pre-sale chart is the film Home Coming, based on the true story of bringing trapped Chinese nationals back to their homeland. Chinese film critics are calling this the most promising film of the holiday period.

Shi said that with the star power of actors Zhang Yi and Wang Junkai, the film should do well at the box office when it hits theaters on Friday.

Shi Chuan, a vice chairman of the Shanghai Film Association, also spoke highly of the work. 

"It combines patriotic themes and the characteristics of commercial films such as action scenes and a good narrative, which are more attractive to audiences," he told the Global Times.

The remaining two "main melody" films Steel Will and Ordinary Hero have together grossed more than 2 million yuan in pre-sales.

As the National Day holidays are the perfect time for families to spend leisure time together, movies suitable for all ages are a must for the season. The latest film in the New Happy Dad and Son franchise, My Alien Friend, sees the main character make friends with a visitor from outer space. 

The film's director, He Cheng, told the Global Times on Monday that the upcoming movie "pays tribute to China's great achievements in space exploration and plants the seeds for dreams of spaceflight in children."

The production crew interviewed a number of people from the aerospace industry for inspirations before the project started. The director said that he was impressed and touched to discover that thousands of young people are "devoting all they can to their dreams, which are bigger and stronger than simple responsibilities. Our country's advanced space technology is beyond imagination. "

Keeping audiences entertained

As many places in China still advocate spending the holiday locally because of on-going COVID-19 pandemic, some industry insiders say that heading to the cinema might become one of main forms of entertainment for many Chinese people.

How to make movies with positive patriotic themes and high commercial value has been a challenge for filmmakers of "main melody" works.

There have been many successful examples such as Wolf Warrior 2, The Battle of Lake Changjin and Operation Red Sea. Shi pointed out that taking the preferences of audiences into account from the very beginning of creating films is very important and that these movies should seek to satisfy audiences' entertainment demands as well to avoid coming across as preachy.

Whether the National Day holidays slate of films can drive audiences to the theater and explore better ways to narrate Chinese stories still remains to be seen.