Chinese film industry aims to challenge Hollywood

Investment in film-making and cinemas is part of a bid to counter western cultural dominance.

China is on course to build a record number of cinemas in a burst of movie infrastructure development that is partly aimed at rivalling the “soft power” of Hollywood.

Following the state-backed expansion of China’s TV and newspaper industries since 2009, the government is promoting a major push of film production and distribution.

The state council, China’s cabinet, has issued new guidelines for the booming industry that have helped film-makers secure bank loans and reach a wider audience.

Qiang Zhongyuan, a director with Beijing Forbidden City Film Company, says the measures have helped him to double his budget this year, which means more films and higher quality work.

“In the past we normally invested 4m-5m yuan on one movie, but now we can go for big productions costing 30m or sometimes even over 100m.”

Despite the widespread piracy of films – which means illegal DVDs often go on sale within days of a new cinema release – the authorities are ramping up cinema construction to draw more audiences to screenings.

“So far this year, we have already matched the number of total theatres built last year, but we still have yet to meet the increasing demand,” Zhao Shi, deputy director of the state administration of radio, film and television, said at a recent press conference.

Industry analysts says the speed of growth – a reflection of a wider economic boom as much as state policy – is so fast that China could start to overtake the US in key benchmarks.

I am forecasting the day when China will catch up with the US in box office takings. It may happen in my lifetime, faster than we expect because of the appreciation of the yuan against the dollar,” wrote Raymond Zhou, the author of a book on the economics of Hollywood.

“There’s a saying that Hollywood is the real foreign ministry of the US, which shows the importance of the movie industry,” Xiang said.

“From a cultural perspective, the promotion of the movie industry is an important way to strengthen the soft power of our country.”

The following Chinese films are highly loved by MsL:

House of Flying Daggers by Zhang Yimou

Hero  by Zhang Yimou

Lust Caution    by Ang Lee

Red Cliff   by Wu Yusheng