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Chinese blockbusters take on Hollywood at box office

Cinematic stand-off: moviegoers check out a poster promoting the Chinese sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth in Beijing CREDIT: ZHU XINGXIN/CHINA DAILY

Lia Zhu

4 MARCH 2019 • 9:15AM

Moviegoers’ antagonism to the US because of the trade war is helping quality local-language films, including The Wandering Earth sci-fi epic, to compete strongly with their American rivals

Hollywood is now facing a challenge from Chinese domestic blockbuster movies in a battle to win over the world’s second-biggest film market, industry insiders say.

“On the heels of Operation Red SeaDetective Chinatown 2Wolf Warrior 2 and The MermaidThe Wandering Earthcontinues to prove that China’s film industry has truly cracked the code with entertaining their own domestic market. Hollywood, be warned,” said Chris Fenton, a California-based producer and a trustee of the US-Asia Institute.

The Wandering Earth, China’s first sci-fi blockbuster, has been another unexpected success, earning $539m by 17 February 2019, 12 days since its release, according to Chinese online-ticketing platform Maoyan.

The film has taken over last year’s homegrown film Operation Red Sea as the second in Chinese film history, only behind the 2017 film Wolf Warrior 2which is China’s highest-grossing movie, hitting about $839m in box-office sales.

“Now its [China’s] consumers are losing interest in Hollywood content, a result of quality local-language competition and negative US sentiment caused by the ongoing ‘trade war’,” said Mr Fenton, who produced or supervised 20 films, including LooperIron Man 3 and 47 Ronin.

Chinese box-office receipts stood at $8.6bn in 2017, with domestic moviesaccounting for about 54 per cent of the total, according to a report last year by the Chinese Film Association and the Film Art Centre of China Federation of Literacy and Art Circle.

Though the 2018 figures are yet to be released, insiders expect another year of solid growth for the Chinese film market.

If China can make movies like this for themselves, they won’t need Hollywood imports as muchScott Mendelson

Last year, Chinese-language film-making was on the rise, while Hollywood’s position was unsteady, as reflected by the latest reporting of film industry consultancy Artisan Gateway in December, according to a report by The Hollywood Reporter.

Revenue from US studio films released in China was down 16.5 per cent year-on-year, while sales for China-made movies climbed 21.6 per cent last year, according to the report.

“If China can make movies like this for themselves, they won’t need Hollywood imports as much. This is where China has been heading for the last several years,” said Scott Mendelson, a film reviewer in an article published by Forbes on 8 February.

Helped by steadily improving production and storytelling quality, homegrown Chinese films are connecting strongly with Chinese audiences, said Stephanie Xu, president of US-Asia Innovation Gateway, a Silicon Valley-based organisation committed to advancing economic and cultural opportunities between the US and Asia.

Part of the success of The Wandering Earth lies in the story, and good stories will help drive the Chinese film industry, said Ms Xu, who is helping produce several Hollywood projects in China.

“Visual effects are important, but only good stories can strike a chord with audiences for a long time,” Ms Xu said.

She led a delegation of four Hollywood writers to the inaugural Golden Week Conference for Chinese Scriptwriters in January in Beijing.

During the conference, Hollywood and Chinese writers were invited to discuss and comment on each other’s works. “They [Hollywood] told me they were really impressed by the Chinese films – the way the story is told and the characters are built,” said Ms Xu.

Since 2015, Ms Xu has organied four “Hollywood Masters’ China Trips” to connect US film-makers with their Chinese counterparts and to find inspiration from Chinese cultural traditions.

From Mulan to the Kung Fu Pandafranchise, Chinese folklore and culture have proved to be great sources for developing films that engage a global audience, Ms Xu said. One of her current projects is an animation feature film on China’s Terracotta Warriors.

“The Silk Road will be the theme of a series of our projects,” she said. “Local-language films have great potential to sell big tickets, as Chinese audiences are more receptive to their own culture and resonate with Chinese elements in films.”

This article was originally produced and published by China Daily. View the original article at


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