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China movie industry to overtake Hollywood in three decades

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China’s movie industry is expected to reap US$2 billion in box office profits by 2015.

In three decades, it is projected to overtake Hollywood.

38-year-old An Chen is directing his first movie in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province. The film is about the underlying social tensions among city dwellers, and how the conflicts are resolved.

An Chen chose to film in Xinjiang as a local government is financing one-fifth of the 5 million yuan production.

“Xinjiang’s tourism has suffered since last year’s disturbance. The local government hopes that movies can help revive tourism and boost the region’s cultural industry. This is a win-win situation. Plus they’re also fond of the storyline,” former management executive-turned-film director An Chen said.

An’s movie will be screened in China next year after it runs at the Berlin Film Festival.

China’s movie industry has tremendous scope for growth and expansion. Demand for movies, especially good homemade movies remain strong, and will continue to grow even stronger especially in the small and medium-sized Chinese cities.

Analysts say China’s market growth will be driven by higher disposable incomes, better purchasing power, and rising ticket prices. A decline in piracy and the growing number of high-quality theatre screens and multiplexes will also keep the cash registers ringing.

The government is doing its part by providing more financial support, and promoting homegrown movies.

There is little cause for wonder that for the first time last year, Chinese movies overtook their Hollywood counterparts at the Chinese box office. However, it is apparently still difficult for promising directors just starting out in the industry to secure funding.

An Chen expressed, “If you are a property developer looking for a designer to design a building, will you ask the designer how many buildings he has designed? If the designer says he has designed five buildings but four collapsed, will you still use him? But in China’s movie industry, a movie director who had directed 10 lousy and unprofitable movies will keep getting the funding to direct more movies. China has lots of such directors.”

As a first-time director, An Chen feels extremely fortunate to have received financial support.

Shi Ke, GM of Teng Long Movie Studios said, “If we feel that the producer is capable, we don’t pay too much attention to his track record. Most movie investors want to avoid risk but yet make lots of money. But where do you find such good deals? So it’s natural that many zoom in on directors with a track record.”

Critics hold the view that some Chinese film directors use censorship as an excuse for their inability to come up produce good movies. Furthermore, since only 20 foreign films are allowed to be screened in China every year, critics say the lack of competition has stunted the growth of the local industry.

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