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Filmart: Chinese film industry panel calls for quality output

Speakers included Kung Fu Yoga director Stanley Tong and JQ Pictures chairman Qin Hong.

Chinese film producers need to improve the quality of their output to entice a mobile-obsessed youth back into cinemas, said speakers at the “What’s Next For The Chinese Film Market?” conference at Hong Kong Filmart (March 13).

The panel addressed recent issues in the mainland film market including the steep decline in box-office growth, escalating talent costs and increased competition from made-for-internet content.

Kung Fu Yoga director Stanley Tong observed that a large proportion of China’s audience was born after 1995 and prefers to consume internet movies rather than theatrical films.

“They are addicted to mobile devices and don’t visit the cinema regularly, so we need to figure out how to attract this audience,” said Tong, adding that 70% of the audience is now located in China’s third and fourth-tier cities, and skews towards women and couples, which explains the recent focus on romantic dramas. “If your subject matter is not attractive to women, you see a decline in box office,” Tong said.

Qin Hong, chairman of JQ Pictures, which produced female-oriented sleeper hit Soul Mate last year, said producers need to pay more attention to quality content and scripts. “We must follow our audiences needs and tastes. Theatrical films have higher production values than internet films and demand different kinds of distribution and promotion. We can’t just aim to sell all our films to websites,” said Hong.

Wanda Media general manager Jiang Defu suggested that theatrical and digital should be seen as complementary rather than competing forms of distribution. “Every month we see the release of 30 local films – it’s not possible for every title to secure a prime screening slot,” he said. “Smaller budget films can take advantage of the internet and still make a profit.”

Yin Chao, CEO of online platform Tmeng, said the digital space can feed new talent into the theatrical market: “We want the online market to incubate our future talents, train film professionals and cultivate the development of intellectual property (IP).” 

Fujian Hengye Pictures CEO Daniel Chan observed that the advantage of internet content is that it attracts a steady audience, whereas cinema-going tends to be seasonal. “In small towns and cities, the box office is clustered around certain holidays,” said Chan. “After this period, people return to the big cities and may not have much leisure time, so cinemas don’t always have a captive audience. You can avoid these issues with online distribution.”

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