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While Arthouse Films Struggle in America, in China They Thrive

  • Ngày 05 tháng 12 năm 2019

    The Cannes Film Festival is often regarded as a bubble where world-class cinema launches to great fanfare before retreating to its niche. The 2018 Jury Prize winner “Capernaum,” a crowdpleaser from Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, went on to gross $1.6 million in the United States and garner an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film — solid prestige business, but not the greatest triumph for a $4 million movie released in the same month that saw “Aquaman” make nearly $68 million in its opening weekend.To get more arthouse films, you can visit shine news official website.


    However, a year after “Capernaum” premiered at Cannes, the drama about an imprisoned 12-year-old boy who sues his parents for neglect grossed $12 million in China on its first weekend. It came in second behind “Avengers: Endgame,” a result that’s unfathomable in the United States. However, these success stories are becoming more familiar in China, where many Cannes breakouts now stand the best shot at finding audiences beyond the insular festival circuit.
    “The world has changed in the last two or three years,” said Wild Bunch sales head Vincent Maraval, whose company sold “Capernaum” at Cannes, during an interview at his office in Paris last week. “For foreign-language films, the U.S. has always been a very minor market. Today, China is more of a priority.”


    In 2018, Wild Bunch also handled sales for the festival’s Palme d’Or winner, Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters,” which pulled in $14 million at the Chinese box office last summer, making it the highest-grossing live-action Japanese film in China’s history. By comparison, “Shoplifters” made $3.3 million in the United States after 23 weeks in release.


    As the international film industry descends on Cannes, American buyers and sellers continue to wade through the existential crisis facing the future of theatrical releases. While the documentary market has grown and diversified, the number of theatrically released fiction features continues to drop in tandem with a diminished theatrical presence in major U.S. cities. Netflix and other streaming platforms make it harder for traditional distributors to compete. But the developments in China, at least on the surface, provide a striking contrast to doom-and-gloom prognostication, and hint at the potential for cinema to survive in a global context.


    “The only massive chance we’ve seen in terms of territories in the past five years is China,” said Jerome Paillard, executive director of the resilient Cannes market Marché du Film, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Among the 110 countries accredited for the market, Paillard said that around 700 representatives from the Chinese film industry would attend this year, putting it in the top five countries at the market. (The U.S. presence is still the largest.) “The diversity in general is very big,” Paillard said. “Africa is getting bigger but it’s still fairly small. In terms of big growth, it’s China.”
    As the East Asian nation intensifies its quest to become the next global superpower, China’s 1.386 billion people have a lot of moviegoing options. The nation outpaced the number of American theaters two years ago, and current reports estimate the number of Chinese screens at around 63,000. China’s box office ballooned to $9 billion in 2018, just $2 billion behind the United States. Not all of China’s homegrown product succeeds — last year’s $113 million fantasy epic “Asura” grossed a mere $7.1 million — but blockbusters hit harder than ever. Most recently, the $50 million sci-fi saga “The Wandering Earth” pulled in $700.8 million ahead of its Netflix release in other territories.


    But the tentpoles hits only tell one part of the story. China’s audiences continue to fill its theaters and develop more complicated sensibilities despite the Communist country’s government regulations and censorship. Distributors have even taken some risky bets. Last year, a major Cannes discovery — 28-year-old director Bi Gan’s dreamlike “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” which includes a 50-minute 3D long take in its second half — was released on New Year’s Eve in China along with a misleading marketing campaign that made the film look like a romance. It grossed $37.9 million on its first day before the backlash from baffled viewers settled in.