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Mission to redeem
Release Date 2020-04-10
Resource CHINA DAILY
Author Xu Fan


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Blockbusters such as Detective Chinatown 3 are delaying release dates in response to the pandemic. The country's film industry is striving to get back on its feet. The first installment of the Fengshen trilogy is one of the films ready for theatrical release when cinemas reopen.


China's top film authority is working to introduce relief measures to help the domestic industry survive the COVID-19 crisis.


The China Film Administration, the country's top regulator for the sector, released a statement on its official website on April 3, announcing that it has coordinated with the Ministry of Finance, the National Development and Reform Commission, the State Taxation Administration and other related departments to research preferential fiscal and tax policies.


Such policies include exemption from a 5 percent levy on ticket revenues by the National Film Industry Development Special Fund.


Initiated in 1997, the fund was established to support quality film production, urban cinemas' maintenance and renovations, and filming in areas where ethnic groups reside.


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The administration also says it will enhance support of the creation and promotion of major films, and provide guidelines to local authorities to help their film companies overcome difficulties.


It is also working to enrich content for internet platforms to meet Chinese demand for watching quality films at home.


Industry players are working hard to prepare for the resumption of operation of the country's more than 12,000 cinemas.


Bona Film Group founder and CEO Yu Dong suggests privately owned companies should not lay off employees, pointing out this is very important for the morale of the entire industry.


The group is one of China's largest privately owned film companies and is known for recruiting Hong Kong veterans to direct Chinese mainland action blockbusters, such as Tsui Hark's The Taking of Tiger Mountain and Dante Lam's Operation Mekong.


"Many companies have been facing cash-flow problems. But I believe it's the duty and responsibility of an enterprise to keep its employees, especially since some of them have strived to fight shoulder to shoulder with you (founders) in the early tough days," Yu said in a recent online meeting organized by the China Film Association.


Yu reveals the company's big-budget war epic, Bingxue Changjinhu (Frozen Chosin), has lost up to 150 million yuan ($21.2 million), mainly because of the suspension of production in Northeast China's Liaoning province.


The film portrays the story of the 17-day Battle of Chosin Reservoir in extremely cold weather on the Korean Peninsula in late 1950 that became a turning point of the Korean War.


Yu says filming was initially planned to start in late January. But the outbreak led to the suspension of filming after the 2,000 cast and crew members had gathered at the shooting sites in Liaoning.


Since the movie is set in winter, filming must be postponed until November.


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Rao Shuguang, president, China Film Critic Association. Filmmakers and industry insiders discuss solutions at an online meeting organized by the China Film Association to cope with the huge losses caused by the pandemic.


Bona Film has produced several of China's highest-grossing films in 2019, including The Captain and The Bravest. But Yu says it would be a big challenge for the company to "rescue itself" in this special period.


He says he hopes the top film authority will consider exempting all Chinese films from the 5 percent levy for three years.


Song Ge, chairman of Beijing Culture, which is known for runaway hits like Wolf Warrior 2 and The Wandering Earth, says he hopes film companies receive tax relief this year.


He also reveals the company's four upcoming movies, including the first installment of director Wuershan's fantasy Fengshen trilogy and Lu Chuan's adventure film, Bureau 749, are preparing for theatrical release and could be ready when cinemas reopen.


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Lu Shaoyang, dean, Peking University School of Journalism and Communication. Filmmakers and industry insiders discuss solutions at an online meeting organized by the China Film Association to cope with the huge losses caused by the pandemic.


Xu Tianfu, vice-president of Hengdian Group, which is based in Zhejiang province and owns the country's largest film-and-television shooting base, Hengdian World Studios, says 310 film crews totaling over 5,600 members were forced to suspend studio work during the lockdown, but around 20 crews have resumed shooting.


He reveals the group's over 400 cinemas, which have around 10,000 employees in 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, are all shut, causing huge losses.


Song predicts the epidemic's impact on the industry may last at least 18 months. He suggests the government reduces taxes and provides subsidies to support films released in the first six months after theaters reopen.


Detective Chinatown 3, the latest installment of director Chen Sicheng's blockbuster Detective Chinatown franchise, led presales among big-budget contenders before the Spring Festival holiday. Around 200 million yuan worth of tickets were sold before the "golden period" for Chinese cinemas. But all new theater releases were halted during the holiday, as the epidemic intensified.


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Yu Dong, founder and CEO, Bona Film Group. Filmmakers and industry insiders discuss solutions at an online meeting organized by the China Film Association to cope with the huge losses caused by the pandemic.


Chen previously told media the film would instead be released during summer vacation or next Spring Festival.


He points out the sector is influential thanks to popular films rather than profits in China and suggests the China Film Association helps filmmakers with promising ideas or projects to get bank loans.


Last year, China produced over 1,000 features, grossing 64.3 billion yuan at the box office. The top 10 films earned nearly 28.6 billion yuan, or 44 percent of total receipts.


Some small and mid-sized film companies had struggled for a long time before the outbreak.


About 3,000 film and television companies went under last year, according to Qcc, a government-recognized enterprise credit rating system.


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Chen Sicheng, director. Filmmakers and industry insiders discuss solutions at an online meeting organized by the China Film Association to cope with the huge losses caused by the pandemic.


Peking University School of Journalism and Communication dean Lu Shaoyang suggests major studios team up to create digital platforms to emulate the shift that has taken place in the United States before the pandemic.


Lu points out the global media-streaming market reached $44.8 billion last year, surpassing the global box-office gross of $42.2 billion. He suggests Chinese film companies also consider developing productions for streaming sites to reduce risks.


China Film Critic Association president Rao Shuguang estimates that domestic consumption will be different after the epidemic passes in China and that films that are around an hour, which is roughly half the length of silver-screen features, will become more common.


"In such a special period, Chinese filmmakers should not passively wait for support and help," Rao says.


"It's time to self-study to polish skills to create better films."


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Song Ge, chairman, Beijing Culture. Filmmakers and industry insiders discuss solutions at an online meeting organized by the China Film Association to cope with the huge losses caused by the pandemic.