Busan: Chinese Producers Share Secrets of Their Blockbuster Success

Producers of some of the biggest Chinese blockbusters of recent years revealed the secrets of their success. They were speaking on Tuesday at an event within the Busan Film Festival’s Asian Film Market.

For Du Yang (“My Old Classmate,” “Police Story 2013”) the young demographic is her main target, so finding out what they like is key. “I am interested in economy and social issues because everything that is happening there is relevant to cinema,” she said. She cited the example of her 2009 production “Sophie’s Revenge” a rom-com released in the Chinese market when the genre was not in vogue. She took a gamble on the fact that global economics were in turmoil and the frustrated audience needed light relief. She was rewarded with 20 million admissions.

Apple is the company that Jiao Aimin (“Somewhere Only We Know,” “The Chef, The Actor, The Scoundrel”) holds up as an example of how to find future direction. Future proofing as much as possible is what he tries to do. “It is important to understand the psychological changes in the audience. We also have to create new demands and trends,” he says.

Jacky Y.H. Liu specializes in China-Korea co-productions and according to him, adapting content to suit local tastes is a recipe for success. He gave Korean film “Miss Granny,” that was remade in China as an example.

Veteran independent producer, Fang Li (“Ever Since We Loved”, “Double Xposure”) said “compared to other companies, I don’t make films that try to be hits. Art comes first. I make them for viewers. Impress viewers and make them emotional. Emotion is the secret for success. Commercial success will naturally follow.”

In his keynote presentation Jiao Aimin talked up the “crazy” explosion of the Chinese market and compared it to the U.S. In 2010 China had 526 releases on 6,200 screens, with 250 million admissions generating $1.4 billion at the box office. At that time, with box office receipts of $10.5 billion, the North American industry was seven times bigger than China’s.

In figures up to September 2015, Jiao said that 618 films have been released so far this year, generating 870 million admissions worth more than $4 billion. There are now over 26,000 screens in operation. At $7.8 billion so far, North America is now only 1.6 times bigger than China. Jiao predicted that China will take overtake by 2017.

Amidst the China flag waving, Du Yang struck a note of concern when she said that only 30% of Chinese films produced get a theatrical release.

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