Caixin
Sep 27, 2019 08:30 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

National Day Provides Small Boost for Troubled Film Industry

The films “My People, My Country,” “The Climbers” and “The Chinese Pilot” will make up nine of every 10 screenings around the nation on Oct. 1, EntGroup said, following Beijing’s call to promote such films. Photo: Mtime
The films “My People, My Country,” “The Climbers” and “The Chinese Pilot” will make up nine of every 10 screenings around the nation on Oct. 1, EntGroup said, following Beijing’s call to promote such films. Photo: Mtime

After a disappointing first-half for the domestic movie industry, three nationalistic films timed to cash in on the upcoming 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China have reported strong ticket sales.

“My People, My Country,” “The Climbers” and “The Chinese Pilot” — all set to open the day before the Oct. 1 anniversary — had together booked more than 300 million yuan ($42 billion) in advance sales on Friday, according to industry tracker EntGroup. By comparison, recent animation smash “Nezha” booked 139 million on its opening day.

Those three films will make up nine of every 10 screenings around the nation on Oct. 1, EntGroup said, following Beijing’s call to promote such films.

“My People, My Country” is an upbeat look at China’s national achievements since the People’s Republic was established. “The Climbers” is a mountaineering film starring Jackie Chan and Zhang Ziyi in an attempt to climb Mount Everest. And “The Chinese Pilot” is a biographical drama about an emergency landing in Sichuan province.

The strong presale performance has helped boost shares of the studios behind the films. Shanghai-listed Wanda Film Holding Co. Ltd. closed up 2.45% on Friday, while Hong Kong-listed Maoyan Entertainment gained 1.8% and Shenzhen-listed Huayi Brothers Media Corp. rose 1.96%.

After years of breakneck growth, China’s box office booked the first half-year ticket revenue drop in eight years in the first half of the year, when revenue slid 2.7% to 31.2 billion yuan, according to EntGroup.

Industry analysts attributed the cooling market to the mismatched growth in facilities and quality content. Chinese film production rose 45% between 2012 and 2018, compared with a more than five-fold increase in the number of screens, official data showed.

A crackdown on film industry misconduct starting last year, including tightening scrutiny over studio and celebrity tax arrangements, sent a cool breeze through the industry, analysts said.

The crackdown has hurt the bottom lines of several major studios. Wanda Film posted profit of 524 million yuan in the first half this year, down 61.9% from the same period the year before. Profit of Beijing Enlight Media Co. Ltd. plummeted 95% to 105 million yuan. Huayi Brothers posted a loss of 379 million yuan, after a profit of 1.1 billion yuan the year before.

Domestic studios are throwing cash at popular patriotic flicks to make back their losses — 48 studios joint-produced and invested in “My People, My Country,” while “The Climbers” had 27 producers and “The Chinese Pilot” had 17.

Such films have been performing well in China of late. “Wolf Warrior 2,” released in 2017, earned 5.6 billion yuan at the box office to become China’s largest-ever grossing film. “Operation Red Sea,” which had similar themes, earned 3.65 billion yuan in 2018.

Han Wei contributed to the report

Contact reporter Tang Ziyi (ziyitang@caixin.com)

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