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Huayi Brothers Chief on China’s Movie Growth: ‘Creativity is Lacking’

James Wang, president of mainland Chinese production giant Huayi Brothers Media, has questioned the sustainability of China’s exploding movie growth.

“Have we reached a bottleneck?” Wang asked during his keynote at the Asia TV Forum in Singapore. “We are constantly thinking about this,” he added.

Wang said despite healthy box office, China’s films in 2014 were unremarkable. “Because of high growth in the movie and entertainment industry, creativity is lacking,” he said.

Huayi will release 17 movies in 2015, Wang said. These include “Lost and Lonely” (“Shigu”), starring Andy Lau. The film is based on the true story of a boy who is abducted and returned to his father three years later.

Wang admitted that the film deals with a tough topic. “We are not a fly-by- night. We have big plans, even if tough movies like ‘Shigu’ are not popular, they have sustaining power,” he said, adding: “As a film maker, as a leader we have the responsibility to produce different types of movies.”

One of Huayi’s biggest business challenges was forging a closer relationship between movies and online. “We need to reach consumers both virtually and in actuality,” he said.

“Movies itself is a fast one-time expenditure, with limited profit capability… Online allows longer value, including games, themes parks and tourist towns, derivative products,” Wang added.

China had 632 million online users in June 2014. “Each person spent 25.9 hours online a week. The future is promising,” Wang said.

His comments follow the November announcement that Huayi would raise RMB3.6 billion ($590 million) through a private placing of new shares with Alibaba, Tencent, Ping An Asset Management and CITIC Securities (Variety, November 18, 2014).

“All these resources will allow Huayi to enlarge its IP value” and unlock greater possibilities, Wang said, adding that “high-quality IP drives the entertainment block upstream and downstream.”

Wang also said Huayi was “building a diversified library by producing content across all genres. China has grown to a level where it can accept different categories of movies,” he added. He listed nine genres, including romantic comedy, action, detective, disaster, drama and fantasy.

Talking about the industry’s rapid change, Wang said Huayi’s “objective is excellent quality content.” High-quality content would thrive “no matter how the world changes,” he added.

“We have a very simple slogan internally at Huayi — Create the power to touch lives,” he said.

Wang presented figures that projected China’s annual box office gross at $10 billion and 40,000 screens by 2017, making it the world’s largest film market.

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