Chinese A-Listers’ Days of Earning 100M Per Film Are Over

Stars have wielded market advantage within the Chinese film industry these past years, but it seems likely that’s about to change.

Rumor has it, Chinese B-list actors are conceding wage cuts of 50% or more compared to what they used to ask for. Some producers say sooner or later “fresh meat(小鲜肉)”, which often refers to good looking rising-stars, will settle for a payment of 10 million yuan ($1.48 million) per film. In the meantime, A-listers have been staying out of the spot light, or line of fire, observing from the sidelines.  

Stemming from a post by a Chinese television presenter Cui Yongyuan, followed by investigations and crackdown on dual contract mechanisms and tax evasions, that lead up to turbulence of stock prices of China’s biggest film studios…Chinese film makers have been on edge throughout 2018. More change is yet to come. The latest buzz revolves around how certain industry and governmental measures, respondent to previous incidents, are coming into effect. Specifically, how actors won’t, and can’t, ask for outrageous paychecks anymore.

Government institutions have successively announced countering policies regarding “Limiting Actors’ Pay” since 2017, and they’re being backed by industry players now too. In August 2018, China’s three major streaming platforms and six film production companies signed and issued a declaration, boycotting overpaid actors by stating that they will strictly adhere to relevant government policies. They promised the compensation of a cast will not exceed 40% of their production budgets, and the lead actors’ compensations will not exceed 70% of the 40%.

A mixture of problems has led to the limitations of actors’ salaries. It’s an issue being tackled from different perspectives. For the government, it’s a problem of corporate and individual income taxation. For the people, it’s a phenomenon that’s provoked social unrest. For filmmakers, it concerns the disproportionate allocation of funds in terms of film production.

People may try to circumvent regulations. If authorities decide to examine actors’ bank statements, prior authorizing distribution licenses, some films may be at risk of not getting theatrical distribution.  

Though most are waiting for the dust to settle, it seems like the tables are bound to turn.