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Audience Hungry for Comedy Films, Touching Stories

2013-04-22 13:45:54 Quarterly

China's film industry may be spitting out movies like never before, diverting much of Chinese audience members' attention away from foreign films.

Three domestic films, namely "Lost in Thailand," "Chinese Zodiac 12" and "Journey to the West," which debuted last year and this year, have each exceeded one billion yuan in box office earnings.

What kinds of films become the favorites of Chinese moviegoers, and has there been any change in audience taste over the last few years? Film industry insiders give their respective opinions.

Reporter: With box office revenues in China rising 30 percent last year to 2.7 billion U.S. dollars, the country has now edged out Japan to become the second-largest film market in the world after the United States.

Figuring out the smartest ways to reach Chinese moviegoers has become one of the film industry's top priorities. IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond, among many others who realize the huge potential of Chinese market, says filmmakers must be sensitive to Chinese tastes.

But what is Chinese taste? Yin Hong, Director of the Research Centre for Film and Television Communication at Tsinghua University, says the recent high box office revenue is powerful evidence of what appeals to Chinese moviegoers.

"In recent years, big-budget martial art films have witnessed a noticeable decline in their box office earnings. Meanwhile, films with realistic themes, cute romantic movies and comedies are frequently box office successes in China."

Famous Chinese comedic film actress Dai Lele believes comedies have become more popular nowadays because young audiences want to enjoy a time of ease when they are under intense pressure.

"Life is difficult. Today, young people have to shoulder all types of pressure, including from both their work and rocketing housing prices. As you become physically exhausted, you might go to a spa or massage service, and when you are in a low mood, comedic films serve as a spa for your mind. Watching a comedic film might not change any disappointing reality, but you feel quite at ease and laugh out your worries the entire night."

Yin Hong believes that since Chinese youngsters constitute the majority of moviegoers, their taste will determine the direction that filmmaking takes.

"Chinese audience members fond of movies are much younger people, and they demand more than ever that movies be good entertainment. Hence, despite whether a movie is a comedic or martial arts movie, it shows a big characteristic: The film becomes more entertaining. This trend complies with the demand from the majority of domestic audiences."

Meanwhile, storytelling through microfilms is a huge phenomenon in China.

Nowadays, for most people, watching a long feature film usually requires a couple of hours, while microfilms offer an alternative. Like fast food that provides customers with convenience, microfilms in China, which usually run 20 minutes, have gained popularity among those pressed for time.

The new trend has not only attracted celebrities such as director Zhang Yimou to join in, but has provided a platform for a number of newly emerging directors to display their talent.

Director Huang Li is one of them. She believes the production of a good microfilm should take netizens' viewing habits as a priority consideration.

"Since microfilms are mainly watched on the internet, internet users tend to be young people and ordinary citizens. If a microfilm can successfully arouse young netizens' interest, it will enjoy as much popularity as expected."

The microfilm "The Coin," directed by Huang Li, won the top award in the microfilm section at last year's Harbin Film Festival as well as the best actress award in the online film section at last year's Beijing College Student Film Festival.

The short films have also been shown as recommended movies at six international film festivals, including this year's Asia short film festival held in Tokyo.

Huang Li says online audience reach is universal, and a good Chinese short film will not only touch Chinese viewers' hearts but can easily go beyond borders.

"Take 'Coin' as an example. The microfilm is about a motherly love story, which all people can understand without any obstacles due to cultural clashes or language barriers. Hence, it can be well received by international audiences too."

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