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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Weekend
Cultural films fail to take off amid box office slump
    2016-December-16  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    CHINA’S box office experienced a summertime slump for the first time in five years as a dearth of blockbusters kept moviegoers away from the big screens.

    The film sector’s woes deepened in the third quarter too, with ticket revenues falling 16 percent from a year earlier.

    Some have attributed the slump to a slowdown in the economy. Mobile ticketing apps backed by e-commerce conglomerates have also hurt the market this year. Discounts offered by subsidies provided by the likes of Alibaba and Baidu, which accounted for as much as 10 percent of the total box office in 2015, fell by 70 percent this year, according to Nomura Holdings Inc. analyst Richard Huang.

    Yet a major reason for the China’s surprise box office decline may well be a consumer backlash against overpaid actors and overly commercial films.

    The government agrees. China’s top political advisers met in August to review a draft law that will call on the film sector to be more “centered on the people, guided by core socialist values,” according to Xinhua. It means that the future of Chinese films may be less guns blazing and more “morality and warmth.”

    All this may come as good news for certain segments of the film sector, especially domestic cultural films centered on traditional Chinese elements. But despite the seemingly promising prospects for home-grown cultural films in China, the situation remains somewhat bleak.

    One director who knows all too well how difficult it is to succeed in China with folk films is Gao Feng. His latest film, “Lao Qiang,” failed to poach disaffected movie audiences when it debuted on Dec. 2.

    The film tells the life story of the protagonist Wang Zhenzhong, an 80-year-old inheritor of laoqiang, which is an ancient form of opera originated in Shaanxi Province during the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D.25).

    “I was amazed by laoqiang performance when I first saw it. I love Chinese culture, so I decided to make it on the big screen for fear that the public will forget the cultural heritage,” said Gao.

    Films inspired by ancient operas might not seem like the best for commercial success amid a movie landscape dominated by Hollywood blockbusters, but Gao is under no illusions.

    “No matter what type the film is, as long as it runs on commercial platforms, it is a commercial film,” said Gao. “I use the inheritance of the art form to express human love.”

    According to Gao, cultural film makers have been working hard to integrate their works with public taste to convey their messages and aesthetic values — which is something that he intends to do with “Lao Qiang.”

    But for a movie that is palatable for Chinese audiences and picked up awards at the Montreal Film Festival and China Image Film Festival in 2014, receiving the cold shoulder is the last thing one would expect.

    The problem is not a lack of market interest, argues Gao; cinemas are to blame because they are reluctant to give way to cultural films deemed to be less profitable.

    To drive up profits, cinema chains in China tend to give priority to more lucrative films, meaning that low-budget cultural movies are being sidelined for dazzling Hollywood blockbusters and shoddy productions featuring Chinese celebrities.

    Gao hopes the Chinese film sector can learn from its French counterpart which attaches great importance to the protection of national culture and arts.

    “In the Latin Quarter in Paris, the cinemas are showing different kinds of cultural movies,” said Gao. “French cinemas are obliged to adopt a quota-based system and set aside a quarter of screenings for domestic cultural films and documentaries.”

    The policy has not only satiated those with maturing cinematic tastes, it has also helped foster a world-famous and well-respected cinema brand.

    “Cinema chains should have to assign quotas for different kinds of movies,” said Gao. “The market has different needs and cinemas can still make money by responding to various audience groups.”

    The lack of such quotas has left many cultural film producers quite literally begging for mercy.

    When “Song of the Phoenix” — a cultural film about the inheritance of the trumpet-like folk instrument suona — debuted in May, its producer, Fang Li, felt so frustrated by the “unfair treatment” received by cinema chains that he publically begged for more sessions of the film to be shown. News reports of Fang bending the knee soon emerged and went viral, saving the production from rotten tomato status.

    The future of cultural films in China remains uncertain, but Gao knows one thing for sure: he will never kneel down for the box office.

    “[Cinemas] make more room for blockbusters, but the attendance rate is not always high,” said Gao. “As long as the cinema chains improve their management and arrange the slots properly, cultural films will have a good market prospect.” (China Daily)

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