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For big B.O. in China, H’w’d must retool

'Subject matters...irrelevant to the locals' won't fly, warns Zheng

HONG KONG — Foreign companies seeking to crack China’s market are well advised to produce movies that are tailor-made to local taste.

So said China Film Co. Production prexy Zheng Quangang, who was speaking at this year’s Hong Kong Intl. Film and TV Market (Filmart 2000). His remarks came during a seminar Wednesday titled “China Film and TV Market After Its Succession to WTO.”

China Film is a major state-run company.

“A lot of people think once China joins the WTO, everything is going to change immediately. But the Chinese government, and the audience, are not as open (to changes) as other Western countries. China will only open its market gradually,” Zheng warned.

Cultural sensitivity training

“Many international film companies want to capture the China market but without taking into consideration the cultural, educational and historical background of the Chinese audience. Some subject matters are irrelevant to the locals,” he added.

Explaining the difference in taste between Chinese and Western audiences, he cited “The General Daughter,” which did well at the American B.O. but flopped in China.

“I also think ‘Shanghai Noon’ is a good movie but I don’t think its box office return will be very high in China because the movie is too Americanized. Chinese audiences also don’t really like the triad movies that have come out of Hong Kong,” Zheng said.

“Therefore, foreign companies have to consider making movies that will create interests among the local audiences, such as films on traditional martial arts,” he added

Despite his cautious tone, the senior exec did end on a high note, saying, “I am sure we can study the market, and share the profits, together.”

Big launch

Organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), this year’s Filmart opened with much fanfare.

A police brass band welcomed guests like director Wong Kar-wai (“Chungking Express”) to the opening ceremony with movie tunes including “Evita” and “Titanic.”

A total of 107 companies from 10 countries have joined this year’s event, with the number of Hong Kong exhibitors surging by 62% to 39.

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