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  您现在的位置∶网易首页 >> 教育首页 >>教育杂志期刊网络秀 >>《thatschina》>>FEATURE
10 Years of Titanic Temptation
2005年01月11日10:04:04 THATSCHINA 

10 Years of Titanic Temptation

How foreign movies are making an impact on the mainland film market
By Caren Zuo


The year 2004 marked the 10th anniversary of Chinese cinema opening its doors to the outside world, when the Ministry of Radio, Film and Television first permitted a handful of carefully-chosen foreign movies to be shown to Chinese. A year later, on the centennial of the establishment of China's film industry, scholars and movie experts are examining potential policies to help foreign filmmaking and investment have a positive impact on Chinese cinema.

With China's entrance into the WTO in 2001, there has been a compulsory, steady increase in the diet of foreign movies entering the country's movie theaters. In 1994, 10 foreign films were allowed to be imported, in what was regarded as a meaningful start. In 2003, 20 foreign films were imported according to China's WTO commitments. In line with these same commitments, China will cancel the quantity limitations on the imported foreign films to distribute in cinemas in 2006, and foreign investors will gain more access to China's film industry. As the influence of foreign films has increased, Chinese audience tastes have evolved.

Before 1994, foreign films were strictly a black market affair. Then came The Fugitive (1994), with Harrison Ford swerving across mainland cinema screens, dazzling audiences with special effects the likes of which had never been seen in China. Some viewers accustomed to the more unswerving mainland fare could be seen stumbling out of theaters slackjawed from this quantum leap in action entertainment. Movies would continue to get faster and bigger. Braveheart, released in 1995 in China, thus launched the golden age of the foreign epic in China. It seemed few other genres of foreign film were selected to be shown.

"You know, when a man gets to a certain age and has experienced something of life, it's very hard for anything to truly touch him, to touch his heart...but when I saw the scene where Mel Gibson shouts 'Freedom!' before he dies, I found myself crying," says Lin Hedong, 37.

Today, Lin and his wife Wang Hailin settle into their comfy seats at the Dahua Cinema in Beijing's Dongdan business district to watch another epic: King Arthur. On screen, Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are about to do battle with the Roman Empire.

Lin is not normally a moviegoer. At best, he says, he can make 2-3 movies a year. "Certainly, foreign films are our first choice. We go just to enjoy the impressive large scale and stereo sound satisfaction. All these things can't be experienced at home watching a DVD."
Lin's wife Wang had wanted to see Yesterday Once More starring "the handsome Andy Lau." "In the end, I talked her out of it," says Lin. "I said, 'Surely we don't need a big screen for that.' We can buy the DVD and watch it at home."

Lin likes epic stories, which thrive on the big screen, while Wang yearns for romance, which can come across just as well on a twenty-inch television. Perhaps this difference might help explain the runaway success in China of a movie that was synonymous with failure in its country of origin, the US.

One movie that combined both action and romance on an epic scale was James Cameron's Titanic. It's hard to think of an appropriate superlative to describe the impact of Titanic on mainland China in 1998.

What was admittedly a very successful movie in the rest of the world resonated like no other before or since in the Chinese corner of the planet. Audiences, both men and women, young and old, flocked to the big-budget romantic epic in unprecedented numbers. It was reported in one newspaper that even ethnic minority people living in remote mountain villages knew the name.

Celine Dion's theme song, "My Heart Will Go On," entered the mainstream of Chinese pop culture, never to leave. Long after the theme has faded from the hearts of foreign moviegoers worldwide, the film continues to hold a unique space in the modern Chinese psyche. The 320 million-yuan box office receipts have yet to be surpassed in Chinese movie history.

Who watches this stuff?
After Titanic, it seemed for a while like anything foreign - regardless of quality - might be an automatic blockbuster in mainland China. But lately, Chinese audiences have been wising up.

"Everything was so bland," says Lin, stomping out of the illuminated exits of the 665-seat, three-star Dahua cinema after King Arthur had concluded. Wife Wang is told-you-so silent as Liu complains about his less-than-regal viewing experience. "We are driven from one battle scene to another, with no excitement or suspense. The lead actress who played Guinevere was appealing - especially her sexy mouth - but her performance doesn't help anyone believe in the reality of a woman's influence on a great man of history."
"Meanwhile, Arthur himself is a rigid, flat person," Lin continues. "And as for his eight knights, they all seemed like the same guy to me. I can only remember Lancelot and another amusing tall thug...this movie was even worse than Troy. There's just been too many of these epic movies lately. For me, none will ever match Braveheart." Lin will not go so far as to call the whole thing a waste of money.

"It was just an expensive movie," he laughs. "But it wasn't so bad that I would never want to see it. I just spent a fairly good night, different from my ordinary life - work to home, home to work - you see, the night scenery is so pleasant."
The price of a ticket to a three-star cinema like Dahua in Beijing ranges from 30-50 yuan, and can top 120 yuan at a five-star cinema. This poses quite a problem for an ordinary Beijinger, whose monthly income averaged about 2,000 yuan in 2003.

Lin, a computing engineer, doesn't object. "That's consumption, the law of supply and demand, and we need that," he says. "On weekdays, we roll to work but we have no time to spend our hard-earned money. On weekends, we need to throw off the week's tiredness and unhappiness."

"I think it's far better to sit in a cinema than blow 100 yuan on soft drinks and snacks at a noisy bar."

With rising ticket prices, what was a medium for the masses 10 years ago is fast becoming a more middle-class concern, with equipment and comfort taking center stage at plush coastal city cinemas.

China Plaza Theatre in Guangzhou was the first five-star cinema in Guangdong Province. Manager Guan Xuehua told a reporter of South Metropolis Daily: "We refurbished the cinema with equipment and decoration compatible with international first-class cinemas. Although the price of a ticket to Return of the King [the third installment of the wildly successful Lord of the Rings trilogy] rose to 80 yuan, the audience numbers kept rising and box office receipts broke over 2 million yuan."

It was Saturday night at Dahua, a good night for business, when Lin and Wang watched King Arthur. But Lin was still surprised at the attendance for such a turkey: more than 80 percent of seats were occupied. Most of audience was middle-aged.

 





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