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Mainland Movies and TV Look to Increased Success at Home and Abroad

A rise in production standards has seen Chinese TV programmes finding new viewers in Latin America and Africa, while the domestic movie industry is said to be performing increasingly well against imported 3D and IMAX blockbusters.

Photo: The new faces of the 2014 Chinese movie industry. (Xinhua News Agency)
The new faces of the 2014 Chinese movie industry.
Photo: The new faces of the 2014 Chinese movie industry. (Xinhua News Agency)
The new faces of the 2014 Chinese movie industry.

While imported TV has long been a staple of Chinese scheduling, it is now looking as though this maybe turning into two-waytraffic, with mainland programmes increasingly finding an international audience. Such success has largely been ascribed to rising production standards for many mainland TV presentations.

At present, a number of Korean dramas – notably The Heirs and My Love from the Star – are proving must-see TV on the mainland, together with several US imports, including The Big Bang Theory (a sitcom) and House of Cards (a political thriller). Their success, however, has seen many overlook the growing demand for mainland-originated programming in a number of new markets across the world.

Chinese period dramas, such as Kangxi Dynasty and Yongzheng Dynasty, have long been popular in many non-China Asian markets, now though countries well beyond the continent are also showing a distinct interest in mainland programmes. One popular Chinese TV drama, The Legend of Zhen Huan, for instance, has now been screened in a number of Latin American markets, while the more contemporary-themed A Beautiful Daughter-in-Law Era is now being broadcast by several African stations. Such has been the success of the latter, that Mao Doudou (the series' lead character) has been quoted by leading Tanzanian government officials during negotiations with their Chinese counterparts.

As well as the television sector, the Chinese film industry has also been performing well, although its most obvious success is coming within the domestic market. According to Xinhua, the official mainland news agency, China's January to June 2014 box office total was Rmb13.743 billion, with domestic films accounting for Rmb6.634 billion of the overall spend. Overseas films took the remaining Rmb7.109 billion.

In 2010, a Chinese movie took more than Rmb10 billion at the mainland box office for the first time. Since then, Chinese movies have broken the Rmb10 billion ever more frequently, with such feats recorded in October 2011, August 2012, June 2013 and May 2014.

As of June 2014, domestic movies accounted four out of 10 of the highest-grossing mainland movies. Of the four, all but The Monkey King were presented in a traditional 2D format, with the average ticket price being much lower than that for the six IMAX and 3D imported films. Many have seen these comparatively low ticket prices, yet high box office returns as a sign of the popularity of domestic movies versus imported offerings.

In line with this, recently-released figures show that Transformers 4 (a US import) took Rmb600 million in its first three days after opening. By comparison, The Breakup Guru (a domestic movie released on the same day) took Rmb150 million over the same period. As of 23 July, the latter movie is said to have taken Rmb650 million, making it the 11th highest-grossing Chinese-language film to date.

Moving slightly closer to home and the Hong Kong film industry is also said to be performing well. Two movies from the city – That Demon Within and The Midnight After – were both screened as part of the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival.

In other developments, The Grandmaster, a 2013 Hong Kong martial arts movie, failed to make the shortlist for the Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, though it was nominated in both the Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design categories.

Photo: Transformers 4: a poor second to domestic movies on the mainland. (Xinhua News Agency)
Transformers 4: a poor second to domestic movies on the mainland.
Photo: Transformers 4: a poor second to domestic movies on the mainland. (Xinhua News Agency)
Transformers 4: a poor second to domestic movies on the mainland.

According to a report released as part of the 21st Beijing College Student Film Festival, 82.1% of mainlanders indicated a positive attitude toward Hong Kong movies, some 10% points above those indicating a partiality for US imports.

Guan Shan Shan, Beijing Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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