Cross-strait co-production of Chinese films gaining ground

Chiu Li-ling & Staff Reporter

As China marches toward becoming a major film producer as well as market, with its annual box office revenues estimated to exceed 40 billion yuan (US$6.3 billion) in 2015, Taiwanese and overseas film companies are rushing to co-produce films with Chinese counterparts to tap the huge market, reports our sister Chinese-language paper Want Daily.

Statistics compiled by the China Film Co-Production Corp show that since 2003, an average of 40 co-produced films have been given a theatrical release each year in mainland China, generating 60% to 80% of the country’s yearly box office takings. Taiwan ranks second behind Hong Kong in terms of its share of the co-produced films. Other cooperative partners come from the US, Japan, the United Kingdom and South Korea.

So far this year, co-productions in which Taiwan has been involved such as 20 Once Again, All You Need is Love, The Wonderful Wedding and The Assassin, have been screened in mainland China. 20 Once Again, directed by Taiwanese director Leste Chen and co-produced by Taiwan’s CatchPlay (invested in by HTC chair Cher Wang), China’s Tianjin Shiji Lecheng Media and South Korea’s CJE&M Corp, saw its box office hit a high of 365 million yuan (US$57.7 million), marking the first Chinese film involving Taiwan as a co-producer to make in excess of 100 million yuan (US$15.7 million). The film also sets an innovative co-production model, with two versions of a single screenplay and shot by two units in mainland China and South Korea.

Industry insiders said factors such as cultural similarities, geographic proximity, strong talent pool and big markets have combined to drive co-production of films between mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, with historical dramas and action films taking the lion’s share of the co-produced films, followed by romantic films, comedies and fantasy films.

Han Sanping, chair of the China Film Producers’ Association, said that as long as a Chinese film can successfully generate good box office revenue in the greater China region, it will fuel growth momentum for the entire market for Chinese-language films.

Xu Shuchun, vice president of China Film Co-Production Corp, said China’s film co-production has experienced five stages of development, from the initial leasing of scenes and personnel to overseas partners, co-production with foreign partners, and mainland-led creative production of films for the domestic market, to mainland-steered innovation and co-production of films with overseas partners for global markets.

Ye Rufen, executive producer of the same company, also said cooperative film production is emerging as a global trend, as close combination of talent, funds and markets among partners can bring box office success. She added that as mainland China boasts abundant funds and a huge potential market while Taiwan enjoys strong innovation and technical talent and is versed in producing stars, both sides of the strait can cooperate well on Chinese-language films.

The Taipei-based One Production Film Co announced in September a move to establish a comprehensive partnership with the Shanghai-headquartered YooZoo Pictures. Li Lei, executive general manager of One Production Film, said that as the mainland boasts annual growth of over 30% in film box office revenue, her company will seek to cooperate with more film companies in China and Hong Kong as well as foreign companies to tap the huge mainland market, potentially even targeting Hollywood.

Acclaimed Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien said Taiwan should grab the opportunities of the vast Chinese market and can team up with the mainland to produce various types of movies through a variety of cooperation models. The Assassin, directed by Hou, is a martial arts film co-produced by Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, has been a success in China and critically acclaimed internationally.

Zhao Jie, general manager of China’s ENT Communications, said that based on big data analysis, good themes and a quality cast are the growth engines for box office sales. Romance, comedy and action films are now quite popular with Chinese moviegoers. As long as such films have popular stars, they can be a hit and expand the so-called fan economy. Taiwan has cultivated plenty of good-looking and likeable young male stars that fit the bill in this regard, Zhao added.

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