×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Shanghai: Chinese Film Industry Needs to Focus on Quality After Wobbly 2018

The economics of China’s film industry is no longer an unbroken story of double digit growth. Nor was 2018 quite as bad many companies have portrayed.

A major report on the business, published in Shanghai this week by the China Film Association, in partnership with the Motion Picture Association, showed the number of cinemas grew last year, but also that per screen attendance dropped. Theatrical box office grew by 9% to $9 billion, but China’s share of the global total only edged up from 21% in 2017 to 22% in 2018.

Liu Jia, film distributor and expert on the industry numbers, called 2018 “an up and down year” at a presentation on Thursday at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Her analysis of the CFA data showed China as now “firmly the number two film market in the world,” increasingly dominated by female audience tastes, and increasingly driven by word of mouth marketing. Online ticketing is now dominant, accounting for 90% of movie tickets sold, and cinema operators are increasingly engaging in variable ticket pricing.

Perhaps her most surprising statistic, given the pessimism expressed by many executives over the past week of Shanghai presentations, was the continued numerical growth of feature film productions. The CFA data showed the number of completed feature films rose from 798 in 2017 to 902 in 2018. The data also showed 398 Chinese films enjoyed theatrical release last year, a decrease from the 412 that played in 2017. (The number of foreign films getting a release in 2018 was 118).

Liu said that the films enjoying the greatest success were those with subjects based on real events, such as “Operation Red Sea” and “Dying to Survive.” The box office success of “The Meg” marked a high point for China-U.S. co-productions.

The CFA data showed that China now has the largest number of cinema screens of any country in the world. Over 9,300 new screens opened for business in 2018, giving an end of year total of 60,000 screens at 11,000 complexes.

The report described a “paradox” of growing exhibition resources and the more modest growth in box office results. It said that resource allocation had been inefficient and that headline growth had disguised the poor operation of some cinemas. Liu suggested that the industry needs to shift focus from speed of cinema growth to improving the quality of that growth. Nevertheless, government regulators have set a target of 80,000 cinemas to be in operation by the end of 2020.

Another speaker, Liu Fan, said that the production slowdown felt in the second half of the year was due to “nationwide deleveraging, rather than any (government) crackdown on the film industry.”

Nevertheless his presentation, referenced the application of changes in tax policies from May 28, 2018 – identified by many producers as the beginning of the production slowdown. He urged enforcement of the law – including those against film stars who use illegal drugs.

It fell to the Motion Picture Association’s Asia-Pacific chief, Mike Ellis to look at the bigger picture, and over a longer period. “The global movie market has maintained a rising trend over the past five years,” he said pointing to a $41 billion box office total in 2018.

Strong performances in China contributed significantly to the global box office totals of some Hollywood films in 2018 – 18% of the worldwide total for “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” and nearly 30% for “Venom.”

“Of particular interest, three of the top ten Chinese films (in 2018) were directorial debuts, while the remaining seven were from younger directors. That is a sign that the market is open to new exciting talent,” he said.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • La vaca

    Alec Baldwin’s El Dorado Boards Debut by Chile’s Francisca Alegria (EXCLUSIVE)

    In what marks the company’s first Latin American project, Alec Baldwin’s El Dorado Pictures has boarded Chilean filmmaker Francisca Alegria’s debut feature, “The Cow Who Sang a Song About the Future.” The multi-Emmy-winning actor and his El Dorado partner Casey Bader will serve as executive producers of the film, slated to start principal photography in [...]

  • Hustlers Box Office

    Box Office: Why 'Hustlers' Soared While 'The Goldfinch' Flopped

    Though STX’s “Hustlers” and Warner Bros.’ “The Goldfinch” couldn’t be more different in terms of genre or style, the two new releases prove the divergent paths that mid-budget movies can take at the box office. Both films arrived last weekend in an environment that has been increasingly hostile to anything that’s not of the superhero [...]

  • The Irishman

    Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' Set for Centerpiece Screening at Rome Festival

    Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” will be among highlights of the upcoming Rome Film Festival, following its European launch as the closing film at the BFI London Film Festival. As with the Oct. 13 London premiere, key cast members of the hotly anticipated Netflix film are expected to attend the screening in Rome, as is Scorsese. [...]

  • 'Cheer Up, Mr. Lee' to be

    Korean Comedy 'Cheer Up, Mr. Lee' to be Remade in French

    Currently on-release South Korean comedy drama, “Cheer Up, Mr. Lee” is to be remade in French. “Mr. Lee” is the story of a mentally-challenged man who learns that he has a sick daughter, and embarks on a voyage of discovery with his new family member. A remake deal was struck between Yong Film, part of [...]

  • The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos

    Korea: 'The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos’ Rules Chuseok Holiday Box Office

    Local films dominated cinemagoing in South Korea over the 4-day Chuseok holiday weekend, traditionally one of the year’s busiest periods. The winner was “The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos.” Opening on Wednesday, the CJ Entertainment release earned $20.2 million from 1.97 million admissions over five days. A film adaptation of CJ E&M’s 2014 hit TV [...]

  • Disco

    New Europe Sells Toronto and San Sebastian Film 'Disco' to Several Territories (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jan Naszewski’s New Europe Film Sales has signed several distribution deals on “Disco,” which had its world premiere in Toronto Film Festival’s Discovery section and makes its European premiere in San Sebastian’s New Directors competition. The film has been picked up by Palace for Australia and New Zealand, Artcam for Czech Republic and Slovakia, Kino [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content