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Film industry marks return of production

China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-09-18


A night view of Guangzhou and Hong Kong streets re-created in film sets at the Hengdian World Studios in Dongyang, Zhejiang province, in August. BAO KANGXUAN/FOR CHINA DAILY

It was a sweltering morning in early September when a film production crew of a crime movie started filming their first scene at a convenience store in Xiamen, East China's Fujian province.

The crew is one of many production houses that have resumed work in Xiamen since the coastal city recommenced film and television shooting in April. About 20 crews have started filming and over 10 others were in preproduction in the first half of this year, according to local authorities.

Filming in other parts of China has resumed as well. Statistics show that 48 crews have already begun filming, and 63 others have been preparing to resume shooting in "Chinese Hollywood" Hengdian World Studios in East China's Zhejiang province since July, a 16 percent increase from last year.

"Too many projects were put on hold in the first half-year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, so we might see a 'retaliatory' rebound in the number of busy film crews for the remainder of the year," says Xue Qiaofeng, deputy general manager of Xiamen Service Center for Film and TV Industry.

Although heavily battered by the COVID-19 outbreak, film investment, production and the box office in China are embracing the dawn of a full recovery as the epidemic has been largely contained in the country.

Favorable policies, including tax cuts and rent relief at national and provincial levels, have been helping film-related businesses tide over the difficulties amid the epidemic.

Fujian province has allocated 48.17 million yuan ($7.12 million) to support its film industry, benefiting film crews, studios and cinemas.

The city of Xiamen provides VR-driven online location scouting services for filmmakers. It also offers to cover the costs of nucleic acid testing for film crews working in Xiamen.

Since cinemas reopened in late July nationwide after months-long hiatus, re-released films and newly screened titles have both accelerated the pace of recovery of China's box office.

According to big data provider Endata, China's box office in August was more than 3 billion yuan while that of July came in at only 192 million yuan. The box office of the 34th and 35th weeks combined reached 2.3 billion yuan, up 77 percent over the same period last year.

Chinese cinemagoers' demands are still robust and the box office is expected to perform even better during the upcoming National Day holiday, traditionally one of the peak seasons for box-office sales in China.

Some highly anticipated domestic productions are slated to hit the screen during the weeklong October holiday this year. Among the much-awaited titles include Leap, a movie based on stories from Chinese women's national volleyball team starring Gong Li, and Legend of Deification, a 3D animated fantasy adventure film.

The hashtag "Films for this year's National Day holiday" has garnered over 46 million views on the Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo with many young users expressing their enthusiasm for the coming blockbusters.

"I sincerely miss the days when people used to laugh together in the cinema," a Weibo user writes. Many others even joked about living in cinemas during the holiday.

The Eight Hundred, a China-produced World War II epic, has fueled enthusiasm among moviegoers. So far it has raked in 2.5 billion yuan in 22 days.

With a rising enthusiasm among movie buffs, China's box office is expected to rekindle the entire film industry chain.

The regained vitality of the box office is alleviating the stress of sluggish return of funds for film investors.

According to local authorities, in the first half of 2020, 175 film and television companies and 66 filming projects have landed in Xiamen, generating a total investment of nearly 30 billion yuan.

Meanwhile, some companies have also found their own way to strive against the impact of the epidemic.

Mini TV shows, with less than 10 minutes per episode, have become the new focus for a Xiamen-based company named Dayu Cultural Media.

"While maintaining a high level of quality, such shorter series require less investment and bear lower risks," says Chen Senhui, general manager of the company.

A report by Maoyan Entertainment shows that China's online entertainment market, including TV and film streaming platforms, saw a big surge when movie theaters were shuttered due to COVID-19.

According to Xue, the industry might see a reshuffle as many traditional film and television companies were squeezed out of business while many well-performing companies are newcomers.

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