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Thread: Chollywood rising

  1. #46
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    Forbes cover story

    I was wondering how I missed this and then I saw the publication date.

    On The Cover/Top Stories
    A New Studio System
    Gady Epstein, 02.03.11, 06:00 PM EST
    Forbes Asia Magazine dated February 14, 2011
    Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner had the right idea in prewar Hollywood, thinks Qin Hong of Beijing.

    In 2006 the young and not-yet-renowned director Lu Chuan took his idea for an ambitious epic about the Japanese massacre at Nanjing, already rejected by a major Chinese studio, to a young, unknown film producer who, as one of the producer's own friends chided him, "didn't know anything about movies." Qin Hong, then 35, had taken the helm of Stellar Megamedia Group, a moneylosing company whose listed Hong Kong arm was on the verge of liquidation, selling off assets to stay afloat.

    It didn't seem like a good time to take a big gamble on a movie--especially one that could run afoul of history-sensitive censors, that would be shot in black-and-white and that would ultimately require a budget of $10 million. All in an immature movie market with a shortage of quality cinemas, where $10 million in total box office qualified as a certifiable hit, far short of what Qin would need to make his money back on Lu's film.

    Did Qin want to take that big a risk? He couldn't get his money in fast enough. "He called me, he said he finished the whole script in one night and he decided to make this movie," Lu says. "He gave me the money without a contract. That really touched me. Without a contract, without anything, he gives me the money."

    City of Life and Death went on to become one of China's top-grossing films of 2009, with $26 million in receipts, making Lu a star director and catapulting lead-investor Qin into his next role, Hollywood-style movie mogul, at just the right moment. For the last 18 months Qin has been buying up movie theaters, signing stars and directors to his in-house agency, and making movies with his contracted talent to show in his theaters. He is in a costly race with private rivals and with the government's vaunted China Film Group to integrate vertically like Hollywood in the 1930s. The valuable prize at stake is China's suddenly lucrative box office in the 2010s.

    The nation known internationally for movie piracy is entering its own golden age of cinema-going: Box office receipts in China grew an astounding 64% in 2010 to $1.5 billion, on top of more than 40% growth the year before. That is still far behind the $11 billion collected in the U.S. and Canada last year, but China could surpass the number two and three markets, Japan ($2.7 billion in 2010) and India (estimated $2.2 billion), by 2012. In January the Chinese Western Let the Bullets Fly became the top-grossing domestic film ever, with more than $100 million in ticket sales. The country has more than 6,000 movie screens and is on its way to 20,000, adding new screens at the rate of 4 per day, mostly digital and many of them 3-D-capable, in modern multiplexes that hardly could be found in China a decade ago. Industry predictions of 40% annual growth for the next five years would have China potentially rivaling the U.S. for box office supremacy by the end of the decade.

    "Nobody could have guessed where we are today five years ago," says Peter Chan, a star Hong Kong director who is working with Stellar to market his films in China, including the big-budget martial arts film Swordsmen, due out later this year. How big can the market get? "Anything is possible. I think it's beyond anybody's imagination, because we're actually talking about the tip of the iceberg right now."

    Rising up to profit from this is a Beijing version of Hollywood's infamous studio system, when the Big Five studios owned not only their movies, but also the talent that made them and the theaters that showed them, before a 1948 Supreme Court decision broke up their oligopoly. Sixty years later Qin and his competitors believe a sharp-elbowed campaign of vertical integration will be necessary to survive in what Qin calls China's "competitive monopoly" system. (Japan also developed integrated studios, in Toho and Shochiku.)

    "Lots of people have seen the future potential of the film market, but the competition is fierce," Qin says. His personality seems made for the task. Stocky in build, open-faced with semi-rimless glasses, Qin compensates for his unassuming appearance and lack of a film background with a serious demeanor, a steady diet of Marlboro cigarettes and a Hollywood-size ego.

    From his office in downtown Beijing, Qin coolly runs down the weaknesses of his formidable competitors: Blockbuster-making studio and talent agency Huayi Brothers, whose film Aftershock took in an estimated $100 million last year, is making a very late and modest entry into the cinema-operating business; the leading non-state-owned distributor Bona Film Group, which had a lackluster U.S. IPO in December, has quickly accelerated its production of movies but must play catch-up to sign talent and add theaters; and real estate giant Dalian Wanda Group, though positioned to remain the dominant owner-operator of cinemas, is starting from close to zero in production and talent.
    continued next post
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  2. #47
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    from previous

    Page 2 of 3

    "Stellar is the one that's involved in all parts of the business," Qin says, and he plans to take on each competitor in its area of strength, with increased recruitment of talent to build an agency to challenge Huayi Brothers' much larger roster, and a planned $135 million invested in 18 to 30 films over the next three years.

    The costly, risky but potentially most lucrative cornerstone of Qin's strategy is the expansion of movie theaters, which keep half of the box office (minus a chunk for their landlords), providing the crucial cash flow needed to build Beijing's studio system, as movie productions still often end up in the red. Theaters also take half the gate on foreign movies like Avatar, which smashed all domestic competitors with more than $200 million in ticket sales in China. Stellar, which had only 3 theaters as of July 2009, now operates 22 cinemas with 135 screens, making Qin's the seventh-largest movie theater company in China, according to Shanghai cinema consultancy Artisan Gateway. Industry leader Wanda, led by billionaire Wang Jianlin, has 71 cinemas and a big advantage for expansion with its own mall developments in China, but Qin plans to have more than 70 theaters by year's end, 120 in 2012 and 200 cinemas with 1,500 screens by the end of 2013, Qin says, which he hopes will put Stellar second behind Wanda.

    To pay for all this, Stellar's Hong Kong-listed affiliate SMI Corp. has raised $100 million through several rounds of sales of shares and convertible notes, and will seek an additional $65 million to $130 million in a third round this year, Qin says, before raising more cash with a planned U.S. listing by next year. Qin's older brother, Qin Hui, owns 66% of SMI--a stake worth $208 million that Qin Hong says the brothers share, along with real estate and other assets that he declines to put a price tag on but says are roughly as valuable as their SMI stake. In earlier days in Beijing, where the brothers were raised, Qin Hong took on more low-key work in the brothers' telecommunications business, while Qin Hui built some of the brothers' early fortune on a Beijing nightclub that has since been shut down by authorities. The elder Qin has receded into the background in recent years after cooperating with investigators in two high-profile corruption cases, but his stamp on the company remains. Some of Qin Hui's unlisted assets are, according to SMI's securities filings, the very movie theaters that the listed SMI has been buying, as the Qins established a cinema-acquisition pipeline.

    "In the next three to five years we plan to build even more theaters, to invest in even more films, to make Stellar one of the largest movie companies in China." Qin breaks into a rare, almost imperceptible smile as he modifies his bluster, "The largest private movie business."

    The big question mark in the growth of not just media but also any industry in China is the government and its state-owned champions, whose efforts to encroach on, acquire, squeeze out or simply shut down private players come under an intimidating banner: guo jin min tui, "the state advances, the private sector retreats." The biggest state-owned presence in movies, China Film Group, has its own plans for vertical integration, including the addition of dozens of cinemas and an eventual IPO, and has government muscle to make life difficult for competitors.

    Stellar has a partnership with China Film in the nation's second-largest theatrical circuit, China Film Stellar, which delivers movies to more than 100 theaters for a small cut of the substantial box office, but it is unclear if the two will cooperate or part ways as their ambitions collide in the years ahead.

    The government also aids domestic private players by keeping foreign competitors effectively leashed with strict regulations on film production, importation, distribution and exhibition. Some of these rules are supposed to loosen up as soon as this year under a hard-fought WTO case, but Beijing can be expected to do its best to limit Hollywood's incursions.

    In 2002 Warner Brothers began opening multiplex cinemas with some success until the government changed the rules on foreign ownership, leading to Warner's exiting the market in 2006. Along the way, the Time Warner unit helped develop a market that lacked multiplexes. Audience interest and especially content had been lacking in the previous two decades, when the government not only tightly capped film imports but also channeled its entertainment and propaganda investments into television broadcasting, which could reach all homes regardless of income, without a massive venue build-out. Now both state-owned and private companies are building out theaters, bidding up leases in a manner that could threaten the overleveraged.

    Ultimately the fuel for Stellar's long-term expansion must come from the box office receipts at its own theaters. China's box office gross could reach $7 billion by 2015, and Qin's goal is to take in 10% of that from Stellar-operated theaters--compared with the 2.6%, or $40 million, Qin says his theaters collected in 2010.
    continued next post
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  3. #48
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    last part

    from previous two posts - this is the kicker as it names the moguls.

    Page 3 of 3

    Last year Stellar had the 10th- and 16th-highest-grossing theaters in China, according to Artisan Gateway figures, with combined box office receipts of nearly $17 million, and Qin's newest theaters are moving quickly up the rankings. One of them in Beijing was number one nationally in December, says consultancy EntGroup. SMI added four more theaters in January. "We know if we rest, we may be swallowed by others," Qin says. Five years after City of Life and Death he is still rushing to put his money into the movies.

    The Moguls

    Huayi Brothers

    Wang Zhongjun and Wang Zhonglei have a talent agency and the services of blockbuster director Feng Xiaogang, whose earthquake drama Aftershock took in $100 million at the box office in 2010, the record-holder for a domestic film until Let the Bullets Fly passed it in January. Huayi Brothers, which went public in 2009, is valued at more than $1 billion.

    Bona Film Group

    Yu Dong runs the leading non-state-owned film distributor and has good relations with his former employer, state-owned China Film Group. He owns a small number of theaters but has accelerated his movie production line. Bona's big-budget martial arts epic The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, starring Jet Li, is due out at the end of this year.

    Stellar

    Qin Hong, 39-year-old chairman of Stellar Megamedia Group and its Hong Kong-listed affiliate SMI Corp., has more theaters than any of the other hitmaking studios. He works with famed director Chen Kaige and up-and-coming star director Lu Chuan, whose City of Life and Death earned $26 million in 2009.

    China Film Group

    Han Sanping is the government's godfather of Chinese movies. China Film Group does not have a track record of producing hits, but the other moguls seek out producing partnerships with the biggest state-owned player. Huayi's Aftershock, Bona's The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate and Stellar's City of Life and Death all share a co-producer in China Film Group.

    Dalian Wanda Group

    Wang Jianlin, billionaire chairman of China's commercial-property colossus, has the most movie screens in China. His company has a cinema division that is expected to maintain the lead in theaters and box office receipts as the national box office grows to $7 billion in 2015, but the company has a long way to go to catch up in producing movies.
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  4. #49
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    In the wake of the Oscars

    There's a lot of talk of China, but no Oscar contenders.
    Live Academy Awards Broadcast Unseen by One of Hollywood's Biggest Markets: China
    9:56 AM 2/28/2011 by Jonathan Landreth

    BEIJING – Chinese director Zhang Yimou probably smiled at Christian Bale’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar win.

    While the prize could brighten the Chinese director’s decision to cast the English actor in his next picture -- a Nanjing Massacre drama the two were shooting together just days ago in China -- Bale’s win for The Fighter, which went unreleased here, was virtually unnoticed across the nation.

    So, too, were the Oscars as a whole, since watching the 83rd Academy Awards half a world away from Hollywood proved a challenge even for cinephiles dedicated enough to try to glimpse a bit of the Oscar glamour via pirated TV or illegal website.

    Star Movies Hong Kong’s licensed live coverage, replete with commentators speaking from what appeared to be a fancy brunch, reached luxury hotels in China, but average Chinese tuning in from home 16 hours ahead of L.A. could see only the red carpet festivities and no more, on Web portals and video sharing sites.

    To see the awards ceremony, hosted by actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway -- both relative unknowns here – most Chinese viewers had to wait until 10:30pm for state-run China Central Television’s planned 90-minute edit, or turn to often unstable live Internet streams of U.S network ABC’s official all-English broadcast, pirated from all over as one Ohio storm warning during an illegal webcast revealed.

    Although Hollywood movies on average grossed more per title in China in 2010 than their homegrown competitors, only two of the 10 films nominated for Best Picture screened here last year, due partly to government limits on film imports. Toy Story 3 was China’s 26th most successful film of the year and Inception rose to the No. 4 spot, selling tickets totaling $68.2 million.

    No matter how much the business of Hollywood and China are intertwined these days – Avatar grossed $204 million here, more than anywhere else outside the U.S.– the lack of a widely available live Oscar broadcast here reflects the distance that remains between the two film cultures, one veteran and one upstart.

    Chinese film critic Raymond Zhou told CCTV that the Academy is a decidedly U.S.-oriented institution that falls down in its international film selection process.

    “The Oscars are not the Olympics of the film industry,” said Zhou, who allowed that just as the Academy’s mission seems too narrow, neither does China’s Film Bureau grasp the subtleties of the criteria for a Best Foreign Language Film nomination.

    Only two citizens of the People's Republic of China have ever won Academy Awards, both composers. Su Cong shared with Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Byrne for Best Original Score of The Last Emperor in 1987. Tan Dun won for the score of the 2000 Hong Kong-China co-production Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

    “We’re either sending movies that are too commercial or too ideology-driven,” Zhou said. China’s 2010 submission, Aftershock, Feng Xiaogang’s blockbuster, was disliked by some American critics for appearing to try to pack too much message into a film about the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. “The secret is to submit films that can be loved by the target audience, the Oscar voters,” Zhou said.

    Meanwhile, many Chinese, like many Americans, seem more interested in the culture of celebrity surrounding the Oscars than they do in the filmmaking the awards are supposed to celebrate.

    Chinese web portal Tencent partnered with L.A.-based Metan Entertainment to feature two segments of two to five minutes each day for a week in the run up to the Oscars, focusing on subjects such as Rodeo Drive shopping for Oscar Night fashions, and what celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck would cook for Academy guests.

    Metan CEO Larry Namer, founder of E! Television, says that gauging who in Hollywood is famous in China proved an initial challenge for the producers of the weekly entertainment industry show called Hello Hollywood Metan now syndicates to 54 mostly second-tier cities across China.

    “The people who get ignored in Hollywood on Oscar night, the TV people like Wentworth Miller, have huge value in China,” said Namer, referring to the star of Fox TV’s Prison Break, a widely pirated and wildly popular show here over the last several years.

    Miller’s famous enough in China to have driven a delayed Chinese theatrical release of Resident Evil: Afterlife to gross a respectable $21.9 million, more than the $17.8 million grossed by Toy Story 3’s own delayed release.

    The one 2010 Oscar-nominated film made in China about a Chinese subject didn’t win. The Warriors of Qiugang was a short subject documentary by Ruby Yang, a Hong Kong-born Chinese, and American Thomas Lennon. The film about Chinese crusaders against environmental degradation apparently didn’t live up to the pair’s earlier China AIDS documentary, which won the Oscar in 2007.

    That film, The Children of Yingzhou District, never screened widely in China, where censors are careful not to approve films deemed threatening to the stability of the one-party government. But Zhou said the Ministry of Health embraced Yang even if many media authorities did not. It remains to be seen if her latest work, three years in the making, will ever surface in theaters here.

    Zhou said CCTV had abandoned efforts at live coverage of the Academy Awards ceremony last year with the nomination of China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province, a short documentary about the 2008 earthquake.

    Official Chinese news reports on the 2010 Oscars omitted mention of it and the two filmmakers, Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill, told The New York Times China refused to give them visas to return.
    The Chinese Film Industry is Set to Surpass North America’s
    by Tony D’Altorio, Investment U Research
    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Forget the Oscars… Movie lovers and investors alike should take note of the Chinese film industry instead.

    Back in January, China’s cinematic market produced the largest grossing domestic film ever – Let the Bullets Fly – a western, that raked in over $100 million in ticket sales.

    Despite the rise of piracy over the last few years, the cinematic culture in China is finally looking up.

    For years, it has suffered from poor films, poor movie theaters and a thereby natural lack of consumer interest. But film companies now expect good things ahead, thanks in part to China’s rapidly growing middle class.

    And heavy investments into new cinemas certainly don’t hurt either…

    The Silver Screen Finds Gold in China

    It’s not Hollywood yet, but China’s overall box-office receipts grew 40% in 2009. They rose the same last year as well, rising to $1.5 billion.

    China now has over 6,200 movie screens, after adding 1,500 in a single year. That number keeps on growing, with about 3 screens added per day, a faster pace than anywhere else.

    Within five years, the country should have 20,000 screens, more than triple its current total. And unlike in the U.S., most of the new screens are digital and 3-D capable.

    Box-office revenues should surpass Japan and India, the second and third largest markets, by the end of 2012. And they could grow to $7 billion by 2015.

    That can’t yet compare to North America’s 2010 total of $11 billion. But if it continues to grow 40% annually, China’s cinematic market will surpass all of that by the end of the decade.

    Tony Adamson, marketing head of DLP – the digital cinema technology arm of Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN) puts its sheer size into perspective. He says, “China could have as many as 100,000 screens and it would not be over-screened.”

    That projection looks good to Chinese movie studios and theater chains. And North American-based cinema equipment and technology firms like it too.

    Investing in China’s Film Industry Boom

    China’s movie-going boom opens up several noteworthy investment opportunities…

    * For one, investors can buy into equipment makers that sell their wares there. That group includes RealD (NYSE: RLD), the force behind 3D technology’s growing popularity.
    * There’s also small-cap Ballantyne Strong (AMEX: BTN), which resells digital cinema projectors and manufactures movie screens and other equipment. Its biggest customer is state-owned China Film Group’s cinema-building arm, China Film China Investment.
    * Imax (NYSE: IMAX), the large-format motion pictures and systems specialist, presents another opportunity. It plans to build 96 cinemas in China this year, up from an original 15. Most of that growth will be in smaller Chinese cities, some of which don’t have cinemas yet. Most industry insiders expect cinema construction to spread like wildfire in those areas.

    And the rate of urbanization and availability of digital projection seem to agree.

    Chinese Film Industry Restrictions Still Allow Profits

    The Chinese government only allows 20 foreign films to show per year. And only two state-owned companies control that quota.

    That means the best way to play the situation is through Chinese film company Bona Film Group ADR (Nasdaq: BONA).

    Bona started out in film distribution, then branched into film production. Today, it is one of China’s largest non-state film companies, along with Enlight Pictures and Huayi Brothers Media Corporation.

    Bona often teams with non-mainland partners, often from Hong Kong, in its productions. That’s certainly true of The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, which stars Jet Li and will release at the end of the year.

    And expect China’s film industry to fly high as time moves on. This investment looks like it’s going to be a blockbuster.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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    Here's one more from WSJ

    * February 28, 2011, 9:51 PM HKT
    China Vies for its Own Hollywood
    By Jason Chow

    The Chinese government recently announced an ambitious plan to more than double the size of its entertainment and other cultural industries in the next five years — see the story here by the WSJ’s Laurie Burkitt – adding more weight to the fight between Hollywood and China for the country’s entertainment dollars.

    The plan focuses on the development of film and television production in China, a strategy designed to stimulate the domestic industry as well as increase China’s cultural sway throughout the world. Already, Chinese film studios produced 15% more films in 2010 compared with the year before, according to media research firm EntGroup Inc. Those domestic films reaped $532 million overseas in box office receipts last year, according to the government.

    Hollywood is undoubtedly watching closely. China allows only 20 foreign movies to be screened in the country’s theaters each year — a system that rankles U.S. studios who want a bigger chunk of this budding moviegoing market. The issue has gone all the way to the World Trade Organization, which has demanded that China open up its film market to a higher number of foreign films. China will address the WTO on the issue this month, and some observers say the country will acquiesce and allow more foreign access.

    What makes Hollywood salivate is the vast growth of the Chinese market. Last week, the Motion Picture Association of America said global revenue hit a record $31.8 billion in 2010, up 8% from the year before. The biggest driver? Ticket receipts in China: 2010 box office sales totaled more than $1.5 billion, a sixfold increase in five years. “Avatar” was the biggest box-office winner, earning $204 million in 2010. Meanwhile in the U.S., ticket sales were flat for the year.

    Of course, as we reported in late October, the uptick in ticket sales in China was due less to more moviegoers than to ticket prices: “The number of filmgoers remains steady at 200 million, almost the same year-over-year,” according to the story. “Tickets are just getting more expensive, says Mao Yu, vice director of the State Administration of Radio Film and Television, which tracks the country’s box office. In China, an Imax ticket costs as much as 150 yuan (roughly $22.50). The price of a regular ticket usually falls between 30 and 40 yuan. And as Imax expands in China, it looks like prices will continue to climb.”

    Last week, Imax announced plans to have more than 300 theaters in Greater China in five years, up from about 100 as of last month. Already, China is the company’s second-largest market.

    Ultimately, the Chinese government hopes that by becoming a major player in the entertainment industry, it can sell a softer image of the country overseas. How this goal will play out against the country’s censorship rules remains to be seen. So far, China’s central government hasn’t revealed any intentions to relax its grip over its control on content. And of course, little was said about the piracy issue that plagues the country’s entertainment industry.
    I gotta figure a way to invest in this beyond just writing a column for the mag on it.
    Gene Ching
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  6. #51
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    I'm gonna add my 2 cents. i like the HK films from the 80's and 90's better then i liked the ones from the 2000's. I thought Hong Kong was already the Hollywood of China?
    Quote Originally Posted by Psycho Mantis View Post
    Genes too busy rocking the gang and scarfing down bags of cheetos while beating it to nacho ninjettes and laughing at the ridiculous posts on the kfforum. In a horse stance of course.

  7. #52
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    National Film Museum

    @Shaolinlueb, I feel ya, but there's this new movement with Chinese film that's emerging from China's growing middle class. Read over some of the articles posted on this thread and you'll see why it's more relevant now than ever.

    China through the Lense: National Film Museum
    2011-03-04 18:04:19 CRIENGLISH.com Web Editor: Duan Xuelian
    Chinese films are more than just kungfu and period dramas, and before Jackie Chan, Andy Lau and Ge You, there were scores of other stars that brought memorable stories alive on screen.


    There are about 4,300 photos on display in the China National Film Museum's exhibition halls, illustrating Chinese film and its history. [Photo:CRIENGLISH.com]

    One exhibition hall features life-size recreations of iconic Chinese film characters. [Photo:CRIENGLISH.com]

    By Angela Pruszenski

    Chinese films are more than just kungfu and period dramas, and before Jackie Chan, Andy Lau and Ge You, there were scores of other stars that brought memorable stories alive on screen.

    The 38,000 square meter China National Film Museum pays tribute to China's long and colorful movie-making history and reveals some secrets of film production.

    The world's love affair with films began in 1895 when the Brothers Lumiere debuted their 50 second motion picture showing a busy French train station at the Grand Cafe in Paris. Audiences around the world were enthralled with the new form of entertainment, and the industry exploded. China first experimented with movie-making in 1905 with the production of a 3 minute Peking Opera short, "Ding Jun Shan," or "Conquering Jun Mountain."

    Half of the museum's 20 exhibition halls are dedicated to illustrating the history of Chinese film, with a special hall dedicated to the film industries of Macao, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Much of the story is illustrated using old pictures of movie stars and film scenes, with about 4,300 stills in the entire museum.

    Other displays include life-sized figures of actors or scenes, including a re-enactment of the first film screening and China's first movie production. One of the more unique items is director and Chinese cinema pioneer Zheng Zhengqiu's old desk, which may remind visitors of the desks for very early Hollywood writers. "The exhibition about Chinese film history is very popular, especially among seniors because they grew up watching old Chinese films. Currently, only our museum has information of these old films," Gu Liang, an interpreter and tour guide at the museum explained.

    The other half of the exhibition halls delve into the behind-the-scenes tricks of film production. And entire set created to look like the Chinese countryside is on display, and production equipment visually creates different times of day, along with rain and snow. Visitors can watch all these changes take place from a balcony. Other models show various early cinema camera tricks, such as reverse-action shots and using graphics on a piece of glass to simulate difficult to build sets.




    A visitor examines movie photos in the first floor of the China National Film Museum. [Photo:CRIENGLISH.com]

    The China Nation Film Museum's IMAX theatre has a screen 27 meters wide and 21 meters high. [Photo:CRIENGLISH.com]

    Visitors can get in on the fun here; aside from simply looking at displays about film-making, there are two blue-screen scenarios to try. One scene involves visitors sitting on a motorbike surrounded by a blue set, while the screen shows them furiously trying to outrun a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The other allows visitors to sit on a magic carpet that moves and turns, while the screen replaces the blue set with aerial views of China's best scenery.

    No film museum would be complete without a theater, and the China National Film Museum has plenty of those — three 35mm theatres, a digital projection hall, and a massive, 27 meter wide and 21 meter high IMAX theatre. "IMAX films use 70mm, offers a much higher resolution," according to Maggie Song, assistant director of the film museum's administration office.

    Films are screened Tuesday-Sunday, and tend to attract large audiences. When the film Avatar debuted in IMAX, the theater managed to serve about 10,000 people in back-to-back showings.

    The museum was founded in 2005 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Chinese film, and is the largest professional film museum in the world. ""When the museum was founded, a group of film experts and artists researched and collected these films and photos from China and all over the world." Maggie Song said of the museum's collections. The entrance to the museum features autographs of famous film stars and directors from all over the world, who attended the museum's opening.

    Getting to the museum is a bit of a hike, with its location near the Airport Expressway in Beijing's northeastern part. However, visitors with enough time for the long commute will find the China National Film Museum, the world's largest professional film museum, well worth the visit for its vivid look at Chinese film history and a rare look at old techniques.

    Logistics:
    Address: 9 Nanying Lu, Chaoyang District
    Hours: Tue-Sun 9am-4.30pm (last entry 4pm)
    Admission: Free (bring passport or ID card), movie ticket prices vary
    Phone: 6431 9548


    The production of the first Chinese movie, "Conquering Jun Mountain," is recreated in the museum. [Photo:CRIENGLISH.com]

    Visitors can try to outrun a T-rex using blue-screen techniques in one of the museum's interactive exhibits. [Photo:CRIENGLISH.com]
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  8. #53
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    The binge

    China is on a cinema-building binge
    The growth in movie theaters is frenetic, with plenty of room for expansion, but it's not clear how much that might help Hollywood.
    March 06, 2011|By David Pierson, Los Angeles Times
    Reporting from Shengzhou, China-- —

    LIGHTS, CAMERA, CHINA!
    This is the first in a series of occasional reports on China's fast-growing film industry and the opportunities -- and challenges -- it presents for Hollywood.
    Not long ago when Zhang Guomiao wanted to see a film, he'd head for the village square. There, itinerant cinema operators would unfurl a canvas screen, set up some static-filled speakers and show a grainy movie in the open air.

    "We had to bring our own stools if we wanted to sit," said Zhang, 47, who remembered chickens clucking by his feet and neighbors talking loudly. "You couldn't hear much of the movie."

    The cinema-building binge is powered in part by ideology. The Communist government is a major investor in film production, distribution and movie houses. Film is a way to strengthen state influence at home and export Chinese culture abroad.

    Movies are "part of a country's soft power," said Han Sanping, the head of state-owned China Film Group.

    Still, the main drivers are practical. Unlike in the U.S., where DVD sales can account for as much as 40% of a film's revenue, rampant piracy has forced studios here to depend almost exclusively on domestic box-office receipts. Bankrolling more pictures and boosting profits requires more screens.

    Then there's boredom. As Chinese workers grow richer and have more leisure time, they're itching for something to do. The typical ticket costs about $5, slightly less than what many new college graduates earn per day. Still, Chinese movie fans have shown a willingness to pay a premium for better sound, a better picture and swanky venues to hang out with friends.

    "There really wasn't much to do here" before the multiplex opened in Shengzhou, said Wang Jinjin, a 24-year-old employee at a local pharmaceutical company. Wang, who earns about $400 a month, said he's visited the theater three times within a few weeks, treating his girlfriend to a ticket, popcorn and bottled water each time. He particularly liked the special effects in Sony Pictures' horror sequel "Resident Evil: Afterlife."

    Hollywood movies consistently draw big crowds here and capture upward of 40% of annual ticket sales. Warner Bros.' "Avatar" is the top-grossing film of all time in China, topping $200 million at the box office.

    But just how much Hollywood will benefit from China's ambitious cinema expansion remains to be seen.

    The Motion Picture Assn. of America has complained for years about strict government limits on the number of foreign films that can be shown in Chinese theaters, which in turn encourages piracy. Warner Bros., a pioneer in cineplex building in China, pulled out in 2006 when Beijing banned majority ownership of cinemas by foreign firms.

    The U.S. scored a victory when the World Trade Organization ruled that China must end the government's monopoly on the distribution of imported books, movies and films by March 19. But that ruling said nothing about the film import quota, which remains intact for now.

    In the meantime, Chinese movie studios are ramping up cinema construction and trying to boost the quality of homegrown films to keep patrons filling all those new seats. That's a tall order for an industry that churns out a lot more flops than blockbusters. Still, three Chinese productions — "Let the Bullets Fly," a gunslinging action comedy; "Aftershock," about the devastating 1976 Tangshan earthquake; and "If You Are the One 2," a romantic comedy sequel — were smash hits at the box office last year.

    And despite Warner Bros.' quick exit from China, some foreign exhibitors see opportunity there. Imax Corp. of Canada plans to triple its presence in China to 300 theaters by 2016. South Korean-owned Lotte plans to have 70 screens in China by the end of the year.

    Though about half the theaters in China have some degree of government ownership, the largest cinema developer is privately held Wanda Group, which has doubled its screens to 600 since 2008. With competition growing in China's biggest cities, exhibitors are looking to seize untapped markets in the country's backwaters.

    In Shengzhou, a former agricultural center turned manufacturing hub, local authorities determined that the city was ripe for a modern multiplex. Aside from evening strolls, karaoke and card games, there wasn't much for workers to do in the city known as China's necktie capital.

    So in 2009, Zhejiang Film Co., which is owned by the provincial government, turned to Pan Xiaming, one of its young managers, to secure a location and oversee construction. The son of tea and sugar-cane farmers, Pan, 28, started at China's fifth-largest cinema chain as a projectionist. The Shengzhou native is so passionate about film that he once traveled 80 miles to the tourist city of Hangzhou to watch "Avatar" in 3-D.

    "The whole time I was in the theater, I kept imagining how great it would be to have this in my hometown," Pan said.

    Situated in a busy shopping mall, near the city's most expensive town houses, Pan's cineplex — Shengzhou Time Movie World — was an instant success. Pictures including Disney-Pixar's "Toy Story 3" and "Aftershock" played to sold-out crowds on weekends after it opened in the summer.

    "It's much better than watching movies off the Internet," said Wang Jiayi, a sporting-goods store clerk who has visited the cinema six times. "You can't feel it off a computer screen."

    These days he visits a new seven-screen multiplex outfitted with plush seating, 3-D screens and popcorn imported from the U.S. The rice farmer went with friends to see the best-picture Academy Award nominee "Inception," marveling at the science-fiction thriller's special effects, throbbing soundtrack — and the clean cinema floors.
    FOR THE RECORD:
    Chinese cinemas: A March 6 article about China's fast-growing cinema industry said the movie "Avatar" was a Warner Bros. film. The movie was released by 20th Century Fox.
    "The movie was very hard to understand, but the cinema was very comfortable," Zhang said. "As a farmer, I thought it was very luxurious."

    Across China, millions of people like Zhang are experiencing modern cinemas for the first time. State-of-the-art theaters are replacing dilapidated movie houses not only in wealthy urban centers like Beijing and Shanghai but in outposts like Shengzhou in central Zhejiang province, which has grown into a bustling city of about 800,000.

    Over the last four years, the number of screens in China has doubled to more than 6,200, a figure that's projected to double again by 2015. Box-office receipts hit a record $1.5 billion last year, according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

    That's still well behind North America, where there are more than 40,000 screens and box-office revenue was $10.6 billion in 2010.Still, China is already considered the world's No. 4 movie market, behind only North America, the European Union and Japan. And with only one screen for every 220,000 Chinese residents, exhibitors have plenty of room to grow.

    "China's cinema industry is practically going from two tin cans and string to an iPhone 4 in one fell swoop," said Rance Pow, president of Artisan Gateway, an entertainment consulting firm.

    Pan met one family who watched three different movies in a single day. He even persuaded his parents to come. It was the first time they had ever seen a film in a cinema. They wept through a screening of "Aftershock."

    "Many people were having their first experience in a cinema," said Pan, whose sober black suits can't disguise his boyish features. "A lot of our customers were in their 50s or older and haven't seen a movie on a big screen in 10 or 20 years. They realized things have changed a lot."

    At first glance, Shengzhou Time Movie World could pass for any cineplex in a U.S. suburb. The familiar aroma of buttery popcorn wafts through a carpeted lobby. Movie times are displayed on a large digital screen above ticket clerks in Pepto-Bismol-colored uniforms. Theater seats feature cup holders for jumbo-sized servings of soda.

    But alongside the Dove chocolate, Lay's potato chips and Haagen-Dazs ice-cream bars at the concession counter are packs of dried prunes, squid and smelt. Ushers have to remind some patrons to stub out their cigarettes in the smoke-free facility.

    At an early-evening screening of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the differences between the Chinese and American moviegoing experiences were clear.

    Viewers talked through the entire film, reading subtitles and gleefully sounding out the English dialogue whenever they could.

    "Ah, I get it now, they all have magic," said one woman to her companion in an excited voice, some oversharing that carried to the other 50 patrons.

    Cellphones rang incessantly. One woman answered her iPhone six times. Someone in the back hocked spit. Not once did anyone complain.

    "After all," Pan said, "it's still a village."
    I had a squid popsicle at a movie theater near Shaolin Temple once. It was peculiar tasting...
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  9. #54
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    Chinawood?

    What happened to Chollywood? ******, do I have to change the name of my print column now?
    Can Hollywood serve China's one billion film-goers?

    China is poised to become the world's second largest film market. But does it want to watch Hollywood films, or its own?


    The Heroes of Nanking, made in China starring Christian Bale, was made with international audiences in mind, says director Zhang Yimou

    Po, the Kung Fu Panda, may look like an innocuous, chubby animal, but he could turn out to be the most devastating double agent on the world stage since Mata Hari shimmied her way to infamy in the first world war. Last week, the sequel to the Chinese-themed, US-made animation broke box-office records in China, taking 125m yuan (£11m) in its opening weekend. It's great news for its creators at DreamWorks, mildly irritating news for Chinese animators and intriguing news for the rest of the cinemagoing world, coming just as a newly confident China squares up to the original moviemaking superpower.

    In Hollywood, movies that borrow far-eastern exoticism to entertain western audiences are as old as Mann's Chinese Theatre – and usually as authentically Chinese. Kung fu movies have been popular in the west since the 70s, and Hong Kong cinema gained its own foothold when director John Woo exported his signature "gun fu" to Hollywood with The Killer in 1989, following in person four years later

    What is new, however, is the tempting prospect of more than a billion Avatar-appreciating movie fans in mainland China. Already the world's second largest economy, China is set to overtake Japan and become the second largest cinema market after the US. According to the predictions of the China Film Producers' Association, by 2015 China will have built more than 7,000 new cinemas, and have annual box-office receipts of up to £3.7bn – which would explain Hollywood's increasingly unsubtle efforts to woo Chinese audiences. Last year's remake of The Karate Kid replaced Japanese karate with Chinese kung fu and a California setting for a Beijing location shoot. Seth Rogen's version of The Green Hornet passed over more obvious casting choices for the role of the sidekick Kato in favour of Jay Chou, who was little-known in the west, but a bankable heartthrob in the far east.

    Like a suitor spurned, in 2007 the US also lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organisation over China's protectionist film distribution practices. This March's decision in the US's favour prompted speculation over whether China would relax the strict quota system for the release of foreign films. And if it did, how would that affect local film-makers? It seems the Chinese film industry has responded by remembering a favourite teaching of ancient military philosopher Sun Tzu: attack is the best form of defence.

    This month, Legend of a Rabbit will open in China, the first release from a 4.5bn yuan (£420m) animation facility developed by the Chinese state as – at least in part – a response to the success of the first Kung Fu Panda film. As a challenger to the big Hollywood studios, it will join Hengdian World Studios in Zhejiang province, which since the mid-1990s has steadily grown to become the world's largest outdoor film studio. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Hero (2002) and the American martial arts film The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) all made use of the complex's historical sets, which include a full-scale replica of the Forbidden City. To call it "Chinawood" would seem a tad reductive.

    Why is the Chinese government investing so generously in cinema? As Hollywood's international reach proves, a healthy film industry extending a nation's cultural reach can be as useful to a nascent superpower as any number of nuclear warheads. Or, from a perspective less tinged with cold war nostalgia, China's economic prosperity affords it the opportunity to present its own image to the world, unmediated by Hollywood.

    Not that it will be easy. "The western perceptions of China as an ageless rural country with a repressive 'red' regime remain a difficult obstacle for Chinese filmmakers – other than by designing these fantastic tales of martial arts set in ancient China," says Yingjin Zhang, author of A Companion to Chinese Cinema. Raymond Zhou, a film critic and columnist for the China Daily newspaper, agrees that using cinema to introduce the real China to the rest of the world may present some difficulties. "Traditional Chinese values are mainly non-confrontational and do not make good movies," he says. "It'll take a genius to tell a quintessential Chinese story on screen and be successful all over the world."

    Could that genius be Zhang Yimou? A member of the first generation of directors to graduate from the reopened Beijing Film Academy following the Cultural Revolution, he is the most internationally successful director to emerge from mainland China, and along with Ang Lee, from Taiwan, among the most important Chinese-language directors working today. His 2002 film Hero opened at No 1 in the US box office, making it the second-highest grossing foreign-language film in US history (after Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ) while his 2004 followup House of Flying Daggers grossed a healthy $93m (£56m) worldwide.

    Yet even a director of Zhang's standing has found that foreign interest dwindles when he strays too far from the martial arts (wuxia) formula. A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, Zhang's Gansu province-set remake of the Coen Brothers' 1984 film Blood Simple, made only a miniscule proportion of Hero's $53m (£32m) box office and went straight to DVD in this country. Zhang chalks this up to cultural differences. "It's black humour and I think that has many local facets, like the language, the way they talk, the gestures and so on. So it's normal that people [in the US] don't get much of it. It didn't really bother me."

    Expectations are much higher for Zhang's latest film, The Heroes of Nanking, which is scheduled to wrap this week. A big-budget historical drama about the 1937 massacre of Chinese citizens by Japanese troops, it is no wuxia spectacular, but it does benefit from the presence of a western star in Christian Bale. Fresh from his Oscar win for The Fighter, Bale plays an American priest who helps hundreds of civilians escape death. The Dark Knight is yet to open in China (Warner Bros cited "cultural sensitivities"), but Bale has a following among young Chinese thanks to the country's vigorous trade in pirate DVDs, which have long been a key way for Chinese viewers to see foreign films.

    Zhang says The Heroes of Nanking was made with international audiences in mind. "First of all, the story is very international. It has a universal message about humanitarianism, about love and redemption, and also we have Christian Bale. And the other thing is almost half of it is in English." But the real strength of the film, says its Hollywood-based executive producer David Linde – who also worked on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – is that while its story is quintessentially Chinese, it has an appeal that transcends national borders. "A great signature director working with an incredibly inspiring actor? That in and of itself is thrilling. When do you get an opportunity where different cultures truly connect, in story, performance and direction? Really, very rarely."

    It might seem unrealistic to expect US appetites for foreign film to broaden as fast as the Chinese appetite is growing, but Linde, who has worked with directors including Ang Lee, Pedro Almodóvar and Alfonso Cuarón, says there's hope. "There's clearly a real fascination with China. I don't know about England, but, as one small example, one of the things you're seeing a lot here is students increasingly studying Mandarin, instead of the more traditional French and Italian." And now that nervous jokes about a Mandarin-speaking future have become a mainstay of American political comedy, might curiosity about the new paymaster translate into box-office receipts? "I think that the opportunity for Chinese film-makers here is pretty significant."

    What matters for Chinese film-makers, Zhang says, is not whether they will be able to reach foreign audiences, but whether they'll be able to satisfy their own. "The market is growing very fast and well-known directors don't necessarily develop at the same pace. We have an old Chinese saying: 'It takes 10 years to grow a tree, but 100 years to make a man.' Maybe this will break the limitation on internationally imported films, so we can have films from all over the world to fulfil the people's need."

    That, of course, is where Hollywood steps in. When The Heroes of Nanking opens in the US, it will likely be accompanied by the rustle of both popcorn boxes and Hollywood screenwriters riffling through Chinese history books, on the hunt for suitable western characters. It can't be long before Reese Witherspoon is trading Mandarin quips with Tony Leung in her latest romantic comedy and James Cameron is directing Chow Yun Fat in a sci-fi blockbuster. When that happens, we'll know exactly which cuddly panda was responsible.

    • This article was amended on 10 June 2011. In the original, Zhang Yimou was referred to throughout as Yimou. This has been corrected.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  10. #55
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    Z

    Z is one of the few Chinese on Hollywood's A list (that's right, Z is an A ) which makes this comment more interesting.
    West isn't always best, says Zhang
    Mon, Jun 13, 2011
    By Joy Fang

    CHINESE actress Zhang Ziyi couldn't be less bothered about not snagging a role in Hollywood.

    "America is not the only market available," said Zhang, 32, when asked about her ambitions there. After all, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) was a huge hit there, while Memoirs Of A Geisha (2005) saw her breaking into the United States with a role that had her speaking in English.

    But Zhang, it seems, prefers to stay on home turf.

    She noted that the movie industry in China is developing quickly, with movies like action-comedy Let the Bullets Fly (2010), which starred veterans like Chow Yun Fat, raking in more than US$100 million (S$124 million) at the domestic box office.

    The Chinese market is so hot right now that major movie studios want a slice of the pie.

    Last year, for instance, media giant Fox produced its first Mandarin film, Hot Summer Days. The movie raked in US$20 million in China, where 1,000 new movie theatres opened last year alone.

    "Of course, people will view Hollywood as the standard," said Zhang in an interview that was part of the inaugural ScreenSingapore event.

    "It's good if we can get a chance to go there and experience what filming is like there. But if there's nothing suitable, we shouldn't force ourselves to take on any role just so we can be in Hollywood."

    Besides, the opportunities for Asian actors to express their voices truly are too few, she added.

    One of ScreenSingapore's ambassadors, Zhang - along with a slew of other stars that included South Korea's Lee Byung Hun and Taiwan's Van Ness Wu - walked the red carpet last Saturday at Shaw Lido for the premiere of actor, director and producer Tom Hanks' latest film, Larry Crowne. The gala premiere served as the closer for the week-long fest.

    Now, said Zhang, roles in blockbusters take a backseat to those she considers more "meaningful".

    Her recent role in Til Death Do Us Part (also known as Love For Life) had her acting with Aaron Kwok as two Aids patients who fall in love.

    "I want roles that pose a challenge. I've tried big commercial films and a variety of different genres. Now I feel I should choose those with more depth," she said.

    "To me, there's no difference filming in China or in Hollywood - except in location. Ultimately I want to star in something that has value, that will be remembered and discussed long after."

    Zhang has pushed away a few Hollywood scripts, even though studios offered her a lot of money, she revealed.

    And what of her time in Singapore, where Zhang - who broke up with her fiance, Vivo Nevo, late last year - has spent more than a week?

    "I toured the Night Safari, had hawker food," she said.

    And, she added, she hit Orchard Road, where the Great Singapore Sale was on. There, she found things that were "really cheap", she enthused.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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  11. #56
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    well i wouldnt call her A list. but she was hot for a bit, but she went ice cold, both here and in china for a while. and while the US is certainly not the only market. its still the biggest financially and globally. and i dont see that changing anytime soon. its been proven that hollywood films are depression/recession proof. remember in 09 when the bottom almost fell out? quantum of solace made close to 100million that same weekend.

  12. #57
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    I can understand Zhang wanting to take on more meaningful roles, as opposed to taking just any role Hollywood may have offered to her. I'll bet most of those roles she refused were as the lead's 'exotic Asian girlfriend.'

  13. #58
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    yea i agree jimbo. or probably action roles. i think ken watanabe is the asian darling in hollywood now. he is what chow yun fat should have been.

  14. #59
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    I suspect part of Zhang Ziyi's issue in china was the "too much like Gong Li" effect.

    Also, for reasons I've never been able to fully comprehend a lot of Chinese men I spoke to found her really ugly.
    Simon McNeil
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    Be on the lookout for the Black Trillium, a post-apocalyptic wuxia novel released by Brain Lag Publishing available in all major online booksellers now.
    Visit me at Simon McNeil - the Blog for thoughts on books and stuff.

  15. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by SimonM View Post
    I suspect part of Zhang Ziyi's issue in china was the "too much like Gong Li" effect.

    Also, for reasons I've never been able to fully comprehend a lot of Chinese men I spoke to found her really ugly.
    Wow. I certainly wouldn't think of her as ugly. I wonder if it had to do with her having been so visible internationally, so quickly?

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