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Summer's gone, new arrivals at the theater
Patrons of the theater may find themselves walking in at a conflicting time, with many Hollywood blockbusters released simultaneously.
The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises are now joined by two other Hollywood blockbusters, Prometheus and The Expendables 2. In late September, The Bourne Legacy and Total Recall will also screen at domestic theaters.
Since late June, Chinese theaters were occupied entirely by domestic films for two months. September is a marked contrast.
"The timing of these imported films is not ideal," said Yu Xin, a movie critic in Beijing. "[The competition] is too intense for blockbusters."
Timing and strategy
Two Hollywood films of similar types are often released back to back. For example, on July 27, Ice Age: Continental Drift and Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, both animations, were released simultaneously.
A month later, on August 27, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man came out on the same day. After being released for more than one week, both earned over 200 million yuan ($31.54 million) in the mainland market. Though not a low figure, it was not as high as expected.
The Amazing Spider-Man is trying new ways to web in audiences. On its official Sina Weibo, various activities were launched, such as giving out free Spider-Man T-shirts to fans. It even had a countdown for the end of its showing in mainland theaters.
"A Hollywood blockbuster bending over backwards for Chinese audiences reflects a bad situation," Beijing Youth Daily wrote in a September 4 report, about the countdown.
Prometheus hit theaters on September 2, less than a week after The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man screened. The Expendables 2 joined two days later.
It might be easier for Chinese audiences to choose if the films weren't all hyped. This is not the case.
Take Prometheus and The Expendables 2 as examples. Seventy-four-year-old Ridley Scott, director of Prometheus, also directed Alien, a science fiction horror classic made in 1979. This marks Scott return to science fiction films, decades after Blade Runner (1991). Meanwhile, The Expendables 2 stars household names like Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li.
"I want to watch them all, but it depends on how much time I will have," Wang Meng, a moviegoer in Beijing told the Global Times. "If they were spread out to different months, I would be more likely to watch all of them."
"I'm excited that there are so many Hollywood blockbusters this month. But it's hard on the budget," Wang Qin, a college student in Yantai, Shandong Province said.
"Some people may not want to spend so much in one month. Cinemas are troubled with how to arrange the competition among the four movies," Beijing Youth Daily wrote.
The sudden influx of Hollywood blockbusters began on August 27, following the summer season when only domestic films were shown. From June 21 to July 21, 25 domestic films were screened. In August, there were over 20 domestic films released.
Insiders see this as an extreme way to protect domestic films, as summer is the best time to reel in audiences. But this measure did not work well.
Only Painted Skin 2 received high profits of 700 million yuan ($110.32 million). A few others screened for one day only. Theaters were less lively compared to previous summers.
"I only watched Caught in the Web during the summer," Wang Qin said.
Wang Meng also hardly watched movies during the summer. Many insiders thus worry that without Hollywood blockbusters, few would go to cinemas. Movie critic Yu Xin has a different opinion.
"Such an arrangement is useful for protecting domestic films, in the big picture," Yu said. "It prevents Hollywood blockbusters from dominating."
South Korea's example
Challenges from Hollywood are not limited to China. South Korea used to have a similar problem.
"Only when domestic films gain their own strength, can they resist Hollywood. If we protect them, they will become flowers in the greenhouse, delicate and not strong," Beijing Youth Daily reported on Tuesday.
According to a report in World Affairs magazine, in 1999, when South Korean's government increased the quota of foreign films, domestic filmmakers protested. The government then regulated that cinemas had to allocate at least 148 days to screen domestic films. Over 40 percent of films screened each year should be domestic made.
In 2006, when the quota was reduced from 148 to 73, South Korean filmmakers protested again. This time, audiences supported the government. They felt that if it weren't for the new quota, South Korean filmmakers would not try to improve.
Korean filmmakers thus had to compete with Hollywood directly. Results showed. Six years later, Korea's films like Deranged and Architecture 101 usurped many Hollywood films at the box office. South Korean director Lee Chang-dong told Beijing Youth Daily that the film market should follow its own principles, and filmmakers should produce quality work.
"Favorites should be domestically made," he said. "Hollywood films may win box offices but not hearts. Filmmakers should never let down expectations. With mutual support between filmmakers and audiences, a good market will develop."
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