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Cinematic Growing Pains


Text by Chu Yifan

During the recent public holiday from April 2 to 4, the newly-released Chinese film Blood Stained Shoes drew considerable attention. An adaptation of a famous horror novel of the same name, Blood Stained Shoes hit the big screen with high expectations from the public for its interpretation and presentation of grim horror and thrilling plot twists found in the book. Also, the film’s producer claimed Blood Stained Shoes would set a new standard for Chinese thrillers. However, disappointment turned out to be the overwhelming public response. “I was actually astonished by its boring ending,” one moviegoer commented after seeing the “truth-revealing” conclusion of the film.

Nowadays, along with wuxia (chivalrous martial arts) films and romantic comedies, horror/thriller is one of the favorite genres for Chinese producers and distributors. Preliminary statistics show that more than two-thirds of films distributed in China fall into one of these three genres. However liked by industry insiders, the fact remains that these genres have generated bleak box office results despite their “popularity.” For martial arts films, the most highly anticipated in terms of box office revenue in 2011, such as The Warring States, The Lost Bladesman and It’s Love, all tanked at the box office.

At the same time, more Hollywood films are enjoying warmer welcomes in China and encouraging box office numbers. Specifically, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, released in China this February, generated more than 650 million yuan in ticket sales - about one-fifth of the total national box office revenue in the first quarter of the year. According to some recent statistics, Chinese box office revenue reached a record high of about 3.654 billion yuan in the first quarter of 2012, 36.6 percent higher than the 2.675 billion yuan during the same period of the previous year. Considering how much Hollywood contributes to this historic growth, it is clear that Chinese films have a long way to go to catch up to the quality of their American counterparts.

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