Hollywood knocks on China's door

Updated: 2013-07-01 20:19


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BEIJING - Keanu Reeves, the star of Hollywood blockbusters "Speed" and "The Matrix," is currently visiting cities in China to promote his directorial debut "Man of Tai Chi."

The upcoming action film, scheduled for release on July 5, is set in Beijing and centers around Chinese martial arts. The cast includes Chinese actors Karen Mok, Chen Hu and Ye Qing.

Industry observers believe that the China-US co-production indicates a deeper integration of the Hollywood film industry in the Chinese market.

An increasing number of Hollywood films are beginning to feature more obvious Chinese elements. Paramount Pictures announced in May that "Transformers 4," the latest entry in the "Transformers" sci-fi franchise, would be shot in China and feature Chinese actress Li Bingbing.

It was also in May that Hollywood action film "Iron Man 3" hit Chinese theaters. The blockbuster, produced by Marvel Entertainment and distributed by Walt Disney, came in a special edition for Chinese audiences, with three minutes of additional footage featuring Chinese actors Wang Xueqi and Fan Bingbing.

Though critics have questioned the significance of the added content, the movie turned out to be a huge box office success. According to China Film News, Iron Man 3 raked in 110 million yuan ($17.9 million) on its first day and has grossed 750 million yuan in total thus far.

Zhang Huijun, president of the Beijing Film Academy, said Hollywood's focus on China, including co-investmens, shooting in China and China-themed films, reflects its recognition of China's increasingly prominent role in the global film industry.

According to statistics released by the State Administration of Radio Film and Television in January, the total value of the Chinese box office has soared to 17.07 billion yuan, making China the second-largest movie market in the world, only behind the United States

Recent data by China Film News showed that as of May 9, the total box office on the Chinese mainland had reached 7.85 billion yuan, a sharp increase compared with the 5.68 billion yuan recorded around the same period last year.

DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said at the Fortune forum held in June in southwest China's city of Chengdu that China will overtake the US as the largest movie market in the world in five years.

As China's movie market gains importance globally, Hollywood film companies are rushing to find ways to get their share, Zhang said.

"Hollywood moviemakers are not only adding Chinese elements to their films, but also trying to internalize Chinese elements in their narratives and tell Chinese stories to global viewers," Zhang added.

DreamWorks set up a joint venture with China Media Capital and other companies in April to expand its fast-growing ties to China. The company plans to co-produce "Kung Fu Panda 3" in 2016 and release the first animated film created independently by local team DreamWorks East in 2017.

Jeffrey Katzenberg described the film as "a love letter to China."

However, Hollywood's tactics to woo Chinese moviegoers remain in doubt.

"Chinese audience are now preferring domestic films featuring daily lives, but Hollywood is only focusing on limited topics such as traditional Kung-fu. Thus the Hollywood tactics may not be enough to stir them up," Zhang said.