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Overseas online market a boon for Chinese content providers

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-19 07:20
Chris McGurk (right), chairman and CEO of Cinedigm, one of the largest independent studios in the United States, and Bill Sondheim, president of Cinedigm's Entertainment Group, talk about the globalization of Chinese films on Easy Talk, a video show broadcast on China Daily website. [Photo by Yu Xiaoou/China Daily]

Over the past decade, many Chinese films that have earned massive amounts at the box-office records in the domestic market have often flopped in North America.

Wolf Warrior 2 - China's all-time box-office champion - earned 5.6 billion yuan ($891 million) in China, but its combined takings in the United States and Canada was merely $2.8 million.

To date, the best-performing Chinese movie in North America is Ang Lee's 2000 martial arts movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a 19th-century story about two generations of warriors.

Zhang Yimou's Hero, which opened in China in 2002 but was released to the North America two years later, follows Crouching Tiger as the second highest-grossing Chinese film in Hollywood's home market.

For domestic filmmakers, it has been a long struggle to promote their hits to a broader audience in the rest of the world.

Chris McGurk, a veteran who has worked in the US movie and television industries for more than 30 years, believes the success of Crouching Tiger and Hero "were not accidents and can be duplicated".

"Both the films told the sort of stories that Western audiences can relate to, with a clear progression from beginning to middle to end. They were linear in form and nonchaotic in presentation, which Western audiences are comfortable with," says McGurk, currently chairman and CEO of Cinedigm, one of the largest independent studios in the United States.

Besides, the two movies have directors who know Western storytelling sensibilities and have casts including top stars known to US audiences, such as Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh for Crouching Tiger, and Jet Li for Hero.

"Picking a right partner is also very important," adds McGurk, who believes the marketing and promotion Sony Classics did for Crouching Tiger and Miramax Films for Hero were effective to convince Americans to think the two are must-see movies.

Stephen Chow's The Mermaid is another case reflecting the partner issue.

China's highest-grossing film in 2016 was shown only on 35 screens in North America by the distributor Sony Pictures, according to the Forbes magazine.

Speaking about how partner choices can be crucial, McGurk, who was once in high positions in Disney, Universal and MGM, says: "I've worked in the top US studios, and I know their number one goal is to protect their own movies."

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