Posts Tagged ‘China’

Money in the bank for Red Cliff 2

January 13, 2009

John Woo’s Red Cliff 2 earned 100mm yuan (US$14.6mm) in China over a five-day weekend. According to VarietyAsia, this was a big milestone for Chinese cinema.

It was “like printing money,” Weng Li, spokesman for producer-distrib China Film Group, wrote of the pic on its website.

For the sake of comparison, over the past weekend, Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” made US$29mm domestically.  This is a good example of China’s reluctance to watch movies in theatres, despite of the release of what I believe is THE movie event of the year in China, akin to a Chinese “Lord of the Rings”.

A condensed version of Red Cliff is due to be released in the US in March.  Which I think is a good thing – brevity is always welcome, and I doubt that American audiences would be able to stomach 5 hours of John Woo.  Red Cliff 1 was painfully and unnecessarily long, and the outlandish action sequences got the eyebrow-raising “wtf?” response from me and the other people I watched it with (typical of John Woo fare – remember Tom Cruise’s flying motorcycle scene in MI-II?).  However, John Woo’s quote at the premiere of the movie in the China has me worried:

The story of Romance of the Three Kingdoms has been told on the big screen many times. I hope this version delivers a touch of reality for theater-goers.

If this is “reality”, I think we live on different planets.

Singapore #1 in Movie-going, #196 in Movie-making

December 11, 2008

A statistic that jumped out at me as I read a VarietyAsia article was that Singaporeans are number 1 in yet another category, this time in our movie-going frequency. The average Singaporean goes to the cinema 4 times a year. This doesn’t sound like much on the first read, but consider this: South Koreans, even with their thriving filmmaking industry that produced critical and commercial hits like OldBoy and My Sassy Girl, only venture to the cinemas 3.3 times a year, and for the Chinese, it’s once every ten years! A Chinese person going to the cinema is an even rarer event than the Olympics and World Cup!

So why are Singaporeans so obsessed with going to the cinema compared to our Asian peers? This is most typically explained with a shrug and an accompanying “nothing else to do in Singapore, wat” comment. Shuffling into a dark soundproof hall with crowds of other people might be the only escape one can get from the ubiquitous city. You’d think that a people so obsessed with movies should have a thriving local film industry, but alas, local films, aside from Jack Neo’s films (and maybe now Royston Tan’s) are the stragglers in this aspect. A vestige of Singapore’s colonial past is the (as a friend so eloquently put it) “ang moh is better” mindset that pervades the general population’s choices of entertainment. It’s like how Singaporeans are all die-hard Manchester United fans (“I supported them since 1992!” – as if that automatically confers English citizenship on them and makes them fans of grey skies and fish n’ chips).

I did a little back-of-the-envelope calculation about cinema revenues in Singapore, detailed below. I assumed that the average price of a ticket was $10, and that 40% of ticket holders buy a $4 popcorn and $3 soda from the concession stands. I consider this assumption to be fairly conservative – a distributor would be crazy not to push harder to sell their high-margin concession items.

Singapore’s population as of mid-2008:
4,839,000

x 4 trips / year

= 19.356 million tickets sold every year

x ($10 / ticket + 40% * $7 in concessions)

= ~$250 million industry

Which is kinda small. No wonder efforts to position Singapore as a media production hub faces many hurdles – why would they produce their film/show in Singapore studios when even if the government throws its weight behind it and encourages all local citizens to watch a made-in-Singapore production, they can barely turn a profit on the production costs? Singapore is no Australia.

Let’s say one day the Communist party manages to eradicate piracy and the Chinese start going to the cinema once a year to catch the blockbusters like The Dark Knight, how much would that be?

China’s population as of July 2007:
1,321,851,888

X 1 trip / year

X (S$10 / ticket + 40% * S$7 in concessions)

= ~$17 billion industry

$17 billion??? That’s not an industry, that’s an economy. Rather than converting Chinese movies like Infernal Affairs and converting them into Hollywood blockbusters, I’d do the reverse – take the best that Hollywood has to offer and tailor it for Chinese audiences.

3D Film Industry in Asia

December 8, 2008

Disney’s new 3D comedy/adventure film starring a toon dog, “Bolt”, recently premiered to a lot of ballyhoohah at the 3DX 3D film festival in Singapore, the first ever festival of its kind which attracted Hollywood fat cats like Mark Zoradi, Dan Glickman, Jeff Katzenburg, James Cameron and others.  It got another free treat when Chinese authorities effectively granted “Bolt” a free pass through its imported-film quota system, which probably reduces the downside in case the movie is a dud (off topic question: in which other industry is the bulk of the marketing expense booked BEFORE the product comes to market?).  According to Variety, the film will get a digital-3D-only rollout on 120-150 screens in China.  So why is the typically protectionist Chinese film industry so warmly embracing this furball comedy?

Obvious benefit to China: luring people away from watching pirated DVDs [back] to digital cinemas, which would obviously would do their entertainment sector good;

Less obvious benefit (my conjecture): interest in 3D would accelerate the delivery of 3D in-home display devices, which means that Joe Six-pack will have to replace his fairly new HD-but-2D Samsung TV if he wants to catch his Monday Night Football in eye-popping 3D.  Chinese manufacturers then milk this cash cow for all it’s worth.

The one disturbing thing I read in this article is that 3D does not support subtitles – WTF?  If I have to watch foreign films dubbed in the pseudo-BBC accent adopted by the local newscasters in Singapore, I might quit going to the movies altogether!

Addendum, 01/05/09

A LA Times preview of 3D technologies at CES reveals an interesting nugget: that some of the current TVs we have at home ALREADY have the capability to display 3D!

Some 3-D-capable televisions are already in consumer homes, including a number of Mitsubishi rear-projection models as well as Samsung’s rear-projection and plasma TVs. They still need the 3-D programming, conversion software and the glasses to display such images.

“There’s in excess of a million TVs in homes today that are capable of showing 3-D, and most people don’t even know it,” said Darrow, the brand and marketing manager for Texas Instruments’ DLP Group in Dallas, which makes high-end chips responsible for displaying 3-D images in the vast majority of rear-projection TVs.