Report points to multiple obstacles

HONG KONG — The Chinese theatrical market is set to double by 2010 with B.O. reaching $720 million.

Forecast is part of a study “Cinema in China: Opportunities and Obstacles,” conducted by research house Screen Digest in association with Nielsen NRG.

Report points to multiple obstacles that may prevent Chinese movie industry reaching its full potential. Partial deregulation has seen one foreign cinema chain pull out of China, while local production levels have boomed. Piracy, which it says accounted for 95% of the market at end 2005, is “a challenge for any company trying to make a profit from a film.”

Third obstacle is country’s tiny ‘cinema class.’ Report says most Chinese never go to a movie theater or even have access to one. Many are unable to afford ticket prices, while pirated discs deliver movies ahead of theatrical release and at a fraction of the cost. Report suggests that if average cinema visits per head could be raised to one per year, China would be the world’s number three movie market. “To reach anything like a mass market China is going to need more cinemas across the country, not just in urban areas, and to significantly lower ticket prices,” it says.

Report attempts to delve into the psychology of Chinese auds, which differ significantly from Western movie consumers. Movie-going is typically planned a week in advance, with individual titles the deciding factor. Few of those surveyed regard visit to hardtop as a social occasion and only 20% go with friends or on a date. Comedy is the favored genre and majority said they were not motivated by nationality of the picture, 42% said they had no preference for a Chinese or a Western movie.

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