China

Understanding China's audiences improves

LOS ANGELES — Chinese films’ recent burst of homegrown success did not fail to impress, but Chinese and U.S. executives also found plenty of reasons to talk of co-operation Tuesday.

“In China today we have a dynamic, young, thriving industry,” said Ellen Eliasoph, head of Village Roadshow Asia, speaking at the 4th edition of the US-China Film Summit in Downtown Los Angeles. “There is lots of money, tons of movies, audience age has dropped to an average of 21, they are internet savvy and we have a great multiplex infrastructure.”

“Our research shows a growing audience preference for Chinese movies,” said Amy Liu, VP of research firm Ent Group.

Film-maker Janet Yang pointed to the success of fantasy movies rooted in traditional Chinese tales, such as “Painted Skin” and “Detective Dee,” while CAA China head Jonah Greenberg pointed to others with a new-found Chinese taste for nostalgia such as “So Young” and “American Dreams In China.” “What this is telling me is that we’ve got a new generation of young people able to afford movie tickets,” he said.

After running through forecasts of screen and audience growth through the next ten years, and predicting the emergence of a film rating system over the next ten years, Bona Film Group CEO Yu Dong said: I want to find US film-makers to help us tap this market, using foreign capital is cheaper than borrowing from Chinese banks.”

Stanley Rosen, professor of Political Science at USC, and Orville Schell, director of The Asia Society voiced the day’s most cautionary notes. Rosen warned that very few Chinese language movies have achieved international success, making it difficult to find strong co-production material.
Schell said that China wants respect, admiration and to make money, and that it also wants to project its soft power. But he also questioned the compatibility of a creative industry with government and censorship. “When China find itself, it will find the power it seeks,” he said.

Other panelists including Orb Media’s Peter Shiao, Galloping Horse’s Ivy Zhong and Le Vision Pictures CEO Zhang Zhao were quick to point out that the massive use of social media and the internet in China is allowing film-makers in China to have unprecedented insight into what Chinese audiences really want.

“It is the right time to find some co-productions between China and the U.S., and there are great opportunities for the culture business. We need to grab these opportunities,” said Ye Ning, VP of Wanda Cultural Industries, part of the giant Wanda group that last month set out its international ambitions with a huge party in Qingdao, studded with Hollywood A-listers.

Still others revealed the co-operative progress that is going on out of sight. Dede Nickerson, head of production and strategic development, Sony Pictures Entertainment, China, said that her company is now developing a whole slate of films Chinese films.

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