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Will the silver screen shine?

Updated: 2013-01-04 10:03
By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)

Foreign competition tarnished the luster of domestic films in 2012. What will this year bring? Raymond Zhou looks deeper.

The year 2012 has been a tumultuous one for China's film industry. It started with doom and gloom as the government took the abrupt action to open the market in February by raising the import quota from 20 to 33, with the new movies exclusively IMAX or 3-D features.

The first battalion of domestic films fell victim to two "unsinkable" Hollywood vessels, Battleship and Titanic 3-D, plus the assorted weaponry of The Avengers. However, these superheroes from across the Pacific did not fare as well, as they bumped into the invisible walls of import blackout months or head-to-head collisions, ensured by Chinese distributors or regulators.

Overall, Hollywood may still command an unprecedented market share of more than 50 percent, while Chinese films as a whole suffered a humiliating defeat.

The silver linings from this dense cloud emerged in the form of two runaway hits.

Painted Skin: The Resurrection is a sequel that fuses a lavish costume drama with a love-triangle fantasy. It was shown only in converted 3-D, a fact that riled a lot of moviegoers but pleased investors by raising the ticket price and plowing in 700 million yuan ($1.12 million) in box-office grosses. Lost in Thailand is a middle-level-budget farce that has reached the 1-billion-yuan mark by Jan 1 and is still going strong (it opened on Dec 12).

The two domestic blockbusters share a few traits: Both are genre movies that treat themselves seriously; neither harbor high artistic ambitions; and both had opening dates that essentially faced no competition, albeit more by chance than by design.

Opening dates are looming larger as one of the decisive factors of the fate of a new film. As domestic releases often have dates pushed and shoved by forces uncontrollable by their distributors, such as censorship, and foreign competition tends to be airdropped into set schedules, the science of film opening in China - which distributors are only beginning to grasp - is still a matter of luck.

Will the silver screen shine?

Will the silver screen shine?

The grave side 

Muddy waters 

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