Chinese film market slows pace, focuses on quality


Chinese film market has experienced leapfrog development in the past decade and entered more stable phase for restructuring, experts said during a national film festival.

The 25th China Golden Rooster & Hundred Flowers Film Festival closed on Saturday in Tangshan, Hebei province.

China's film market reached its prime time in 2015, when box office reached 44 billion yuan ($6.6 billion), up 48.7 percent from 2014, according to the film bureau of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).

"The market cooled down from the heat this year. Pace is slower and quality becomes important," said Liu Hanwen, a film researcher with SARFT.

Chinese film industry has been growing at an annual rate of more than 30 percent in the last six years. In February, with 6.87 billion yuan, or $1 billion in ticket sales, it overtook North America for the first time.

However, box office figures started to disappoint market watchers in April, with a 24.2 percent drop from last year. Summer total ticket sales, from June to August, was 12.4 billion yuan, about the same with the figure last year, according to official statistics, but the revenue of 4.5 billion yuan in July was down 18 percent year on year, the first decrease in five years.

During the summer, ticket sales of domestic films totaled 4.7 billion yuan, more than 40 percent down from 7.9 billion yuan in the summer of last year.

Not a single domestic film scored over one billion yuan in sales since April this year, said Li Chun, an assistant professor of the Communication University of China.

"Everybody thinks foreign films would stimulate the market, but judging from the figures so far, the foreign films also lack luster in the market," he said.

Zootopia, which ranks first in box figures this year, took in 1.53 billion yuan, but it was far from the magnitude of last year's top grossing film, Fast and Furious 7, with 2.4 billion yuan, Li said.

More stable market

Last year, online booking firms splashed out big promotions to win customers. Ticket subsidies were worth nearly five billion yuan in 2015, accounting for 10 percent of total revenue, analysts said.

"Ticket subsidies used to be the norm, but it has come to hurt the industry. Commercial motives can not sustain driving the market. The manmade tide will die down and contents will rule," said Zhou Xing, a professor with Beijing Normal University.

Regulators also helped the market to emerge from fraud and foams and return to order.

In March, regulators said distributors of martial arts movie "Ip Man 3" fabricated box office figures. A total of 20 theater chains in China, about half of the total, were involved in the scandal.

A cooled-down market may be the best time for restructuring and cultivation of quality contents, analysts said.

A more healthy and prosperous Chinese film market is much anticipated, said Zhang Hong, Communist Party chief of the China Film Association.

Last year, China produced 686 films.

Film talents need to explore different genres to tell truly fascinating stories about China and the Chinese to capture the heart of audience, said Liu Hanwen.