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Chinese director Lu Chuan becomes very emotional when talking about the release delay of his lastest work "The Last Supper". [Sina.com]
Being backed into a corner by increased import quota of Hollywood movies, strict censorship and obsequious piracy, Chinese directors said during a discussion panel held on Monday in Shanghai that their films are finding it much more difficult to make money in the market.
Vice President Xi Jinping reached an agreement with the U.S. during his visit there in February that China will import 14 more American movies annually on top of its current 20-film quota. This dealt a blow to Chinese filmmakers as they feared that their market share would be glutted by Hollywood.
Domestic box office results in the first half of 2012 did little to quench their fears. Hollywood blockbusters dominated the market whereas most of Chinese movies lost money.
Lu Chuan, director of the critically acclaimed and commercially successful film The City of Life and Death" warned that investors would turn away from Chinese films if the trend continues. "The year of 2012 is a very dangerous year for the Chinese film industry. What if we are defeated in every season by foreign films? Nobody would like to invest in our films any more," he said.
But he and other directors agreed that Chinese film market needs more competition. Hollywood movies could force Chinese directors to re-examine themselves and make improvements in production and storytelling.
Moreover, some directors have realized the advantages in producing films on the home turf. Director Wuershan, whose second feature "Painted Skin: The Resurrection" is to be released soon, said: "We understand our nation and culture, and know what people like to watch because they are our relatives and friends. We talk to our families through films. These are all our advantages."
But being of this nation and culture also has various disadvantages to filmmakers. Strict censorship is deeply entrenched as part of the production process for films made in China. It hit director Lu Chuan especially hard this year.
An executive producer announced on June 13 that Lu's star-studded big production "The Last Supper" had its release date delayed infinitely for "special non-commercial reasons." Lu became very emotional when talking about the delay during the forum but did not elaborate on the reasons. He voiced his strong objections to the current censorship rules, saying that they puts Chinese filmmakers in a weaker position when competing with Hollywood films, the rules prohibit a wide range of subjects and commentaries.
In addition, piracy continues to trouble filmmakers. Director Wang Xiaoshuai said that his films often become available online for illegal downloading on the second day of their theatrical releases. As piracy seriously cuts into the sales in the first few days of release, distributors would limit the theaters where movies are initially screened rather than make them available in more locations, resulting in financial losses, he said.
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