×

Shanghai: China Studio Chiefs Debate Winter Chills and U.S. Rivalry

The Shanghai International Film Festival pulled off the impressive feat of assembling leading executives from seven of China’s top film studios. Their discussion focused on the problems that have recently beset the production sector and the industry’s relationship with Hollywood.

“The film industry achieved great things in 2018, but it was also the year that the industry received most criticism from society,” said Yu Dong, founder, chairman and CEO of Bona Film Group. “Our directors, actors and company were all criticized. The tax examination at the end of the year shook up the industry. We all had so many grievances, we all felt wronged.”

Chinese tax authorities last year intervened in the film sector, following accusations made at movie star Fan Bingbing. They ordered companies and individuals to fully declare their earnings, and to cease some previously permitted tax avoidance structures. The move – which netted some $1.7 billion of back taxes – caused an abrupt disruption of film production, changed relations between producers and talent, and caused investors to take fright.

“It was the year that the supply of capital went into winter hibernation. Half of the publicly-listed film companies saw their market valuations fall. Eight film companies had their market values cut in half,” said Yu. “We had to adapt to new market conditions, adapt to new film topics, and change our ways with casting as well. The market is cold and we’re losing our audience.”

Popular on Variety

“Morale is very low now. There is an acute drop in production numbers as everyone is sitting on the fence, watching. We need to rebuild morale and faith. Audience needs to rediscover its faith in Chinese film. We need capital support,” said Wang Changtian, chairman of Enlight Media.

Huddling for warmth was a recurring theme of the seminar. “Nowadays, movies aren’t made by one or two film companies, but by seven or eight. We’re all neighbors and brothers. To throw a good punch you need to bunch all your fingers together and make a fist,” said Jiang Ping, GM of China Film group. “The Rescue,” an upcoming action film with seven companies listed as producers proved his point, Jiang said.

While the speakers carefully avoided the specific term “trade war,” U.S.-China rivalry was another recurring theme.

“It is only a matter of time before we outdo the U.S., but that is not an objective,” said Fan Luyuan, chairman of Alibaba Pictures.

Bona’s Yu argued that Chinese studios should push harder into international markets. “China has had the biggest February box office in the world for the past five years, because of the Chinese New Year holidays. We should have the determination to play our movies in that at every Chinatown movie theater all over the world,” Yu said.

More Film

  • Oliver-Berben-and-Uli-Edel

    Constantin TV, ZDF, Global Screen, Team on 'The Palace' (EXCLUSIVE)

    BERLIN — Constantin Film, the No. 1 German independent behind the “Resident Evil” franchise, is teaming with German public broadcaster ZDF to produce “The Palace,” (“Friedrichstadt-Palast”) a period drama set at the celebrated Berlin music hall. Global Screen will handle international distribution. “Last Exit to Brooklyn’s” Uli Edel will re-team with Constantin Television, directing the [...]

  • Berlin: Embankment Rides With Frankie Dettori

    Berlin: Embankment Rides With Frankie Dettori Documentary 'Frankie'

    Embankment has launched worldwide sales at the European Film Market on feature documentary “Frankie,” the story of champion jockey Frankie Dettori, winner of more than 3,000 races. The film shadows Dettori for one season as, at 49, he looks to win a record third Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe on Enable, his most beloved horse. [...]

  • Pathé Inks Major Pre-Sales on Emilia

    Pathé Inks Major Pre-Sales on Emilia Jones Starrer 'Coda' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Pathé has closed major pre-sales on Sian Heder’s anticipated film “Coda,” starring Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez and Marlee Matlin, after unveiling an exclusive promo reel of the film at EFM. An English-language remake of the French smash hit “La Famille Belier,” “Coda” is being produced by Philippe Rousselet and Fabrice Gianfermi at Vendôme Group, alongside [...]

  • Greenwich Takes U.S. Rights to Caroline

    Greenwich Takes U.S. Rights to Oscar-Winner Caroline Link's 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit'

    Beta Cinema has sold the German box-office hit “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” by Oscar-winner Caroline Link to the U.S. Greenwich Entertainment picked up the rights to the feature, which has attracted almost one million admissions since its Christmas release in Germany alone. German media lauded the film, calling it “a real godsend for the [...]

  • 'H Is for Happiness' Review

    'H Is for Happiness': Film Review

    More often than not, “A” festival competitions privilege the arty over the entertaining, so hats off to the Berlinale Generation section, where the two qualities frequently coexist. A case in point: the delightful coming-of-age dramedy “H Is for Happiness,” which provides feel-good entertainment for the entire family without pandering — and definitely without sacrificing style [...]

  • 'Jinpa' Review

    ‘Jinpa’: Film Review

    After roaming for more than a year on the international festival circuit, “Jinpa” — the latest effort from Tibetan director Pema Tseden (“Old Dog,” “Tharlo”) — has finally launched a limited run in U.S. art houses, where it might find an appreciative if occasionally perplexed audience for its idiosyncratic mix of deadpan wit and understated [...]

  • Clarisse-Goulart

    Projeto Paradiso Fights for Brazilian Film Industry

    BERLIN — Having slowed incentives to a near halt this year, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s government looks set to decimate film funding in 2020. Brazil’s industry is bracing – and fighting back. On Sunday, at Berlin, Projeto Paradiso, a philanthropic organization, announced a Sao Paulo Forum, New Business Models for a New Audiovisual Era, and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content