China leads global film industry
Published: May 05, 2024 10:14 PM
Illustration: Liu Xiangya

Illustration: Liu Xiangya

The first four months of 2024 have seen an impressive performance from the Chinese mainland film market, which surpassed the 20 billion yuan ($2.83 billion) mark in total box-office revenue. This achievement not only highlights the market's strength but also positions it as a significant driver in the global film industry.

According to Beacon, a Chinese ticketing platform under Ali Pictures, as of 6 pm Saturday, the total revenue for the 2024 Chinese mainland box office exceeded 20 billion yuan, a milestone reached three days earlier than 2023. With over 4.53 billion tickets sold and more than 49.47 million screenings, these figures speak volumes. Yolo directed by Jia Ling takes the lead of the annual box-office chart with a cumulative box office of 3.46 billion yuan, followed by the other two Spring Festival blockbusters Pegasus 2 and Article 20, with 3.398 billion yuan and 2.454 billion yuan, respectively. 

As the second biggest film period after the Spring Festival film season, the May Day holiday box office surpassed 14 billion yuan at 12:31 pm Sunday. Formed Police Unit, The Last Frenzy and Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In grabbed the top three spots in the box-office rankings for this period, according to Beacon.

These numbers underscore the strength of the domestic film market, indicating the significant potential of this "golden opportunity" for Chinese cinema, as domestic productions continue to excel.

A key factor behind this success is the continual improvement in the quality of domestic productions. Increased investment in film development and production has led to higher-quality content that has resonating well with audiences. This quality is reflected in the dominance of Chinese films in the top 10 box-office rankings. 

According to Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan, the top 10 films of all time in the Chinese mainland are all homemade films, except Avengers: Endgame at No.8. Among these, most are domestic productions released in the past five years, including The Battle at Lake Changjin and Hi, Mom from 2021.

While box-office revenue is an important indicator of film development, it should not overshadow the cultural and societal significance of cinema. In this era of cultural diversity, films should serve a greater purpose, reflecting the daily lives and emotional aspirations of the people while nurturing cultural and spiritual values for a better life, experts said.

However, some film productions still rely heavily on box-office performance. On Sunday, the production team of suspense comedy Nothing Can't Be Undone by a Hot Pot issued an announcement that it will withdraw from Chinese theaters starting from Monday. Premiered on May 1, the film had grossed nearly 52 million yuan at the box office as of Sunday.

The withdraw may be chalked up to too much competition during the holiday period, but wouldn't things have been the same if it had released at another time? In the end, a good story is the only thing that can guarantee good box office results.

This also shows that box-office revenue remains the main channel for film investment returns, a relatively single profit model. This excessive reliance and pursuit of box-office revenue has greatly exacerbated the contradiction between box-office performance and reputation, and has also made box-office revenue an outlet for certain improper interests. 

Facing the development of the times and audience demands, actively promoting industrial upgrading and transformation is essential for the full realization of the film industry's contribution to the national economy, and the results of industrial reform can benefit a broader spectrum.

A healthy film market thrives on diversity and openness, and the flourishing Chinese film market is closely linked to the success of imported films. For instance, Japanese animated films released during the May Day period, such as Spy x Family Code: White and Howl's Moving Castle achieved remarkable box-office results, contributing to the growth of the animation sector. Chinese cinemas have become a major destination for foreign language films, promoting cultural exchange and enriching the viewing experience.

Furthermore, effective promotion strategies by film production companies and theaters also have played a crucial role in the Chinese film market. Pre-release marketing campaigns across various platforms have generated significant buzz and anticipation, contributing to the success of films upon their release. For instance, the romantic film Shining For One Thing released during the 2024 New Year holidays garnered significant attention due to its unique promotion strategy on short video platform Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, sparking interest with its beautiful and romantic visuals.

In summary, we have every reason to be confident that the Chinese film market has the potential to become a driving force in the global film industry, transitioning from a film powerhouse to a film superpower. This journey requires perseverance and continuous improvement.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.