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Rent in China

As the Russian cinema is developing the rolling market of the Middle Kingdom

Rent in China
Photo by: qz.com

Alexander Isayev

Leading researcher, Deputy Head of the Center for the Study and Forecasting of Russian-Chinese Relations, IFES RAS
Sports movie melodrama "Ice", produced by Fyodor Bondarchuk and collected a good box office in the Russian box office, has come to Chinese cinemas since the end of March. It was originally planned that the film will simultaneously be released on 25 thousand cinema screens in the Middle Kingdom, that is, it will occupy half of the country's cinemas. However, "Pacific Rim-2" and "Black Panther" somewhat pushed the position of "Ice". The demonstration of the tape began on 23 thousand screens, which is also not bad. Not bad already because, in general, a passable, albeit a high-quality film, entered into a competitive struggle with the next film monster Guillermo Del Toro.

For the first three days of the rental, "Led" earned $ 2,132 million and entered the top ten most box office films of the week, however, at 9 place. It is worth recalling that the film of Fyodor Bondarchuk "Stalingrad" has earned in China more than $ 12 million. In the top 10 got his next film - "Attraction". The matter ended with the fact that the film crew decided to make the continuations of the fantastic tape together with the Chinese partners.

Other Russian films also rose to the top 10 of the Chinese box office. Among them - "He is a Dragon", "Viy", "Metro", "Viking", "Time of the First", "Stalingrad", "Salute 7" and many others, including the joint war drama "Ballet in the Flame of War" ... It is significant that Russian films are being released on a very impressive scale. The same "Viking", the distribution of which in the Celestial Empire was agreed by the film company "Central Partnership" and distribution companies Flame Node Entertainment and Beijing United Film Artists Co. Ltd, appeared simultaneously on 10000 screens. The film rental within three days brought almost $ 2 million. The aforementioned "Salute 7" was shown for a week in early May 2018 and all this time firmly retained its 7th place in the top ten highest grossing films in Chinese film distribution, earning about $ 3 million. 

With the film "He is a dragon" there was a unique story. This fantastic drama, directed by Igor Tsai and produced by Timur Bekmambetov, was not first acquired by the Chinese. The film became known in the PRC due to the Chinese segment of the Internet, where it got in an elementary pirated way, and where it was watched by 40 million Chinese.   

The procurers paid attention to the popularity of the Russian tape among local Internet viewers and bought it. The film was released in a rental and collected a good cash, confirming its success in large cinemas. But the story did not end there. There are talks that soon it may appear "He is a dragon-2", shot already by Russian and Chinese filmmakers. The joint Russian will be a fantastic film "Defenders", which also turned out to be interesting for Chinese moviegoers.

Today's film distribution market in China is like a tasty pie, from which any foreign filmmaker tries to bite off a slice. So far, the most fatty pieces go to Hollywood. The Chinese film market is the second largest rental market in the world. In 2016, the total box office fees of the Middle Kingdom amounted to 49 billion yuan. And at the end of 2017, they exceeded 50 billion. Today there are more than 50 thousand screens in China, and it seems that the limit has not yet come.

Russian films in this market are still few: in 2016, only four paintings from Russia were released, five more appeared in 2017. For three months 2018, China has already shown two films.

It is important at the same time to recall that China independently produces almost 700 annually, and competition for getting into the rental network even among Chinese manufacturers is extremely high, not to mention the presence of foreign tapes in Chinese cinemas. Therefore, the fact that in 2016-2017 years in Chinese cinemas successfully demonstrated 9 Russian tapes, is very meaningful. He talks about the increased prospects for Russian cinema. After all, 7-8 years ago, our directors were very happy when at least one Russian film hit the Chinese market.

Chinese filmmakers have begun to invest more willingly in Russian cinema and joint filming with our cinematographers. In addition to the already listed sequels, the work on "Viyem-2" is coming to an end, although there is nothing left from the real Viya. The film was named "The Secret of the Dragon's Seal." Travel to China ». It was filmed in 3D format, and its premiere in our two countries, as well as in Malaysia - an unusual twist! - will be held in August this year.

Joint cartoons are being made, and the Chinese have funded the cyber-punk fantasy action film Hardcore, directed by Ilya Naishuller.  

The two countries intend to shoot two or three films every year. To this end, the Chinese partners plan to invest up to $ 50 million in joint film production with Russia. Of course, this figure is not very large: it is about five times less than Chinese film investments in Hollywood companies. But it is very important that Russian-Chinese cooperation has been reorganized in a business-like manner and is now focused on a specific result. This approach, I think, is quite acceptable, because it guarantees joint tapes almost automatic entry into the Chinese distribution network, and into our network, where Chinese films are extremely rare, too.

The development of active cooperation of filmmakers of the two countries in the rolling sphere has two motivations. First, the administrative resource works well. But today it ceases to be the main and determining factor.

The second motivation is more and more that Russian and Chinese manufacturers and distributors have managed to pave a direct path to cooperation with each other. Moreover, the cinematic crisis in Russia has already become a thing of the past, and our filmmakers have begun to make high-quality feature films of various genres, including the most commercially profitable science fiction films, war films, and excellent cartoons. And this could not fail to attract the attention of Chinese film businessmen.

Cinema is not only the most massive form of art, but today it is also a broad field for entrepreneurial activity. The concept of "film business" has become firmly established in the use of filmmakers who build their policies on the principles of payback of their products. Chinese filmmakers have learned this for another 15 years ago, Russian filmmakers have just learned. But they have already achieved a lot. And most importantly, no one is adjusting Russian-Chinese cinematographic cooperation. Of course, it is stimulated from both sides, but no one is going to arrange senseless races in this sphere. Development must go naturally, although it needs to be stimulated.

The most interesting auteur films are filmed in Russia today at regional film studios. And, by the way, in the same place it is very popular due to its recognition, and the desire of people to see their own life, understand it and decide what to do next. Decent films are made in Yakutia. Such films as "Path of Death", "Naakhara", "Ghost", "Paranormal Yakutsk", immediately after appearing on the screens won success and even allowed filmmakers to make money. And the detective film "My Killer" was among the contenders for the 2016 Hollywood Golden Globe. Kazan filmmakers today swung as much at Lovecraft himself - the American master of prose in the genre of horror. They shoot their films in Buryatia, Primorye.

Regional production capacity is minimal, financial - minuscule. But what's in full prosperity, so it's - healthy ambitions and a desire to work. And there, by the way, a lot of interesting and new ideas, and the ability to work without looking at "authorities".

Very revealing is the story of the appearance of the Russian animated film "The Snow Queen". The film was shot in Voronezh, studio "Visart Animation", and came out a year earlier than the Disney band "Cold Heart". With the cost of $ 7 million earned more than $ 25 million. Many parts of successive successes were drawn in Chinese computer graphics studios and partly funded by the Chinese.

Interest in the cooperation of young Russian film-makers with Asian countries is gradually increasing. In Moscow, the young directors of Siberia and the Far East are not very welcome, encouraging the funding for the most part of the Moscow mastodons of film production. But today almost every region, territory or republic in a vast geographical area beyond the Urals conducts its own international film festivals, establishes contacts with foreign filmmakers, and could offer a good movie. Not enough money for advertising and presentations.

It seems that there are good prospects for the development of the entire diversity of Russian cinema and cooperation with the foreign Far East. China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam have a fairly developed cinematography and a strong rolling base. Therefore, cinematographic cooperation here has very good prospects. The Russian-Chinese film link confirms this.
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