Chinese Media Blames Spate of Poor Quality Films for Flagging Box Office

  • Official Party newspaper points finger at well-known directors for dipping box office takes.
  • Article cites easy money flowing into industry as a culprit in increased quantity but low quality of new films.
  • People’s Daily also criticizes celebrity culture, especially films designed to glorify young stars.1_UF6jd_1200x0_1200x750

Communist Party of China (CCP) newspaper People’s Daily launched a broadside against the country’s film industry on Thursday, blaming the sector’s dramatic reversal in fortunes on “terrible” and “mediocre” films.

“Some well-known directors have recently come out with terrible films,” the CCP’s mouthpiece wrote. “If it’s too easy to make money, it’s too easy for the finished product to be mediocre.”

The paper blamed a glut of new money in the the country’s film industry for a spate of low-quality domestic films that are failing to sustain China’s recent cinema market growth, likening it to the “resource curse” of economic theory.

“In recent years, China’s film industry has grown rapidly, with box office takings going from RMB 10 billion now passing the RMB 60 billion mark,” said the paper. “But of the 600 films made each year, only a few can be called good quality.”

The paper derided the rise of celebrity culture and the lack of cinematic masterpieces produced in the 1980s, like Red SorghumYellow Earth, and Farewell My Concubine.

“The films that dominate now are the most star-studded ones, with nice-looking scenes and a big budget for a promotional campaign,” said People’s Daily. “If even lousy films sell well, what’s going to motivate filmmakers to work hard on creating something of quality?”

This July, total domestic box office revenue declined for the first time in nearly five years, signaling a reversal of fortunes for the Chinese movie industry.

The country’s box office dropped 4.6 percent in the second quarter of 2016, according to statistics from the National Film Development Funds Management Committee.

China Box Office Slumping, Official Numbers Show

The recent slump in box office takings is prompting some analysts to mark down their growth predictions for the coming quarters.

Liu Yan, an analyst with Southwest Securities has reduced his annual forecast for Chinese box office revenue to 53 billion yuan, down from the previous 60 billion yuan. Liu also cut the estimated growth rate to 20 per cent, from 30 per cent previously.

“The golden days of 2015, with nearly 50 per cent annual growth, will not come back,” he told the South China Morning Post.

“We don’t expect to see the same growth for at least the next three years.”

Other Chinese media outlets have been spreading the blame for the flagging box office numbers, with local newspaper Beijing Daily taking aim at “fresh meat” — Chinese Internet slang for teen idols — as being behind the spate of poor quality films.

The industry should pay more attention to the quality of films and strive to create works of art, the paper argued, rather than “worship young and handsome stars.”

Chinese social media users have also been venting their displeasure a the state of domestic films of late, with one film bearing most of the brunt of their scorn.

Despite featuring an all-star cast including  Jet Li, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Fan Bingbing, Louis Koo, Angelababy, and Xu Qing, action fantasy pic League of Gods (封神传奇) has been singled out on Chinese social media.

Online critics took aim at the film’s stars for their poor acting, ridiculous costumes, and the film itself for borrowing too obviously from other films like The Lord Of The Rings.