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China Movies & TV Drama

A Film Lover’s Complaint: Netizens Weary of China’s “Domestic Movie Protection Month”

During the summer season, big international movies are blocked from Chinese cinemas. The policy, meant to boost China’s domestic film industry, is a dreaded one amongst China’s movie-loving social media users.

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During China’s summer season, big international movies are blocked from cinemas in the PRC. The policy, meant to boost China’s domestic film industry, is a dreaded one amongst many movie-loving social media users.

This summer, while big Hollywood films such as Spiderman: Homecoming or War of the Planet of the Apes are riding the heat wave in North America, audiences in China will not be seeing them until end of August. The only big western film they can see during this two-month-period is Despicable Me 3.

The measure is a much-dreaded one on Chinese social media, where many young people complain that now that they finally have the time to go and see their favorite movies in the cinema, they can’t because they are blocked: “I’m always in school and can’t see any movies. Now that I’m free I still can’t see them.”

 

DOMESTIC FILM PROTECTION MONTH

“What once started out as a month-long Hollywood ‘blackout’ has gradually extended over the years.”

 

The reason behind the delay is the “invisible hand” of the Chinese state. During the summer holidays, the Chinese National Film Board blocks many imported foreign blockbusters, a phenomenon called “Domestic Film Protection Month” (国产电影保护月).

The term was allegedly coined in 2004, when Chinese media reported about an order restricting screening foreign films between June 10 and July 10 each year. According to Baidu Baike (百度百科), Baidu’s equivalent of Wikipedia, there are no publicly available official documents defining this policy.

The term was also used in an item published by regional media in 2006. The article (“国产电影保护月”沈阳遇冷引发议论“) states that the policy was launched in order to protect China’s domestic movie business. During “Domestic Film Protection Month,” as it was dubbed by the media and film industry, it is not “encouraged” to show big foreign films in China’s cinemas.

What once started out as a month-long Hollywood ‘blackout’ has gradually extended over the years. Currently, the blocking of foreign blockbusters lasts around 2 months each summer.

Although the measure was never officially admitted by government officials, this unspoken policy has been executed for the past 14 years. The policy has also extended to several other major national holidays like Chinese New Year and the National Day holiday. During these holidays, a majority of China’s population is off work – a peak moment for cinemas.

 

BOOSTING CHINA’S FILM INDUSTRY

“The scene in which Tom Cruise’s character kills two Chinese henchmen was one of those eliminated scenes, as it was deemed ‘truly insulting'”

 

There are various ways in which the Chinese state interferes in the movie industry to support and protect domestic film production. Besides the “Domestic Film Protection Month” and other measures – such as opening two big Hollywood movies on the same day – there is also a limit to the number of foreign films accepted into China’s cinemas; Chinese audiences can only see 34 overseas films per year. Revenues from these films are shared between the Chinese film distributors and the western producers.

The measurements are part of a wider campaign to boost the domestic film industry. In the 2005-2012 period, only one-third of China’s domestic movies were screened by China’s major cinemas; up to 80% of Chinese film projects lost money as a consequence. The ‘blackout’ periods need “to ensure that Hollywood films account for no more than 50% of the market in any given year” (Su 2016).

Some of the films that were postponed in China over the past decade include Spider-Man 2 (2004), Mr. Smith&Mrs Smith (2004) Garfield (2006), Transformers (2007), Harry Potter (2011), Ben-Hur (2016), and many others.

But support for domestic films is not always the only reason why the release of Hollywood films is postponed in Chinese cinemas. The process of translation and censorship also contributes to the final date a western film is released in China.

The release of Mission Impossible 3 in 2006, for example, was delayed because some scenes filmed in Shanghai needed to be erased. The scene in which Tom Cruise’s character kills two Chinese henchmen was one of those eliminated scenes, as it was deemed “truly insulting” by the China Film Group. The film could only be released after this part was censored.

 

FUTILE EFFORTS?

“Despite the endless efforts, Hollywood films are still making substantially more money than their domestic rivals in Chinese cinemas.”

 

Despite the endless efforts, Hollywood films are still making substantially more money than their domestic rivals in Chinese cinemas. In 2016, Terminator Genysis was the first big foreign film to come out after the ‘protection month.’

This film, that was rather mediocre considering its ratings and ticket sales in North America, received a warm welcome from Chinese audiences: it made a staggering RMB 181 million (USD 27million) on its opening day. Thanks to its sales in China, this film could be deemed – financially at least – a success.

Data shows that in the first half of 2017, 76% of the published films were domestic ones – yet they only account for 39% of the total ticket sales.

Despicable Me 3, the only western film to have been allowed outside of this summer’s ‘Hollywood blackout’, exceeded RMB 300 million (USD 44.6m) in ticket sales within 2 days after its release. As of 31st July, 25 days after in Chinese cinemas, that number had already risen to RMB 990 million (±USD 147m).

Ironically, its success also comes as a result of the ‘Domestic Film Protection Month’. As some netizens say on Weibo: “Thanks to the domestic film protection month, ???, I’ve seen too many sh*t films; I need to see some cartoon [Despicable Me 3] to wash my eyes.”

 

A FILM-LOVER’S COMPLAINT

“I’m in despair – when will the ‘Domestic Film Protection Month’ finally be over?!”

 

On Chinese social media, many other film-loving netizens also complain about the summer restrictions on foreign movies and express their wish to watch big foreign films at the same time as the rest of the world. Many also indicate they would rather support movies based on their quality than where come from.

“I’m in despair – when will the ‘Domestic Film Protection Month’ finally be over?!” some commenters asked.

“Are you done protecting your stuff yet? I’m waiting,” others said.

Despite the criticism, there are also netizens who say they hope that China’s domestic cinema can grow and develop into a more thriving industry. Their wishes might be fulfilled, as recent reports show that Chinese films such as Wolf Warrior 2 (战狼2) are benefiting from the fact that China blocks international competition from the market during this period; the patriotic blockbuster made a massive $130M debut this summer.

Some netizens are satisfied despite the restrictions, and praised the movie on their Weibo account, adding: “Wolf Warrior 2 has become the movie hit of the summer. I didn’t expect it – it’s not easy to see a good movie during the ‘protect movies’ summer season.”

By Miranda Barnes & Richard Barnes

This article has been revised by the editor.

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

References (online references linked to through text):

Su, Wendy. 2016. China’s Encounter with Global Hollywood. Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky.

Miranda Barnes is a Chinese blogger and parttime translator with a strong interest in Chinese media and culture. Born in Shenyang, she now lives in Beijing with her British husband. On www.abearandapig.com they will share news of their upcoming year-long trip around Australasia, East & Central Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Roge Arias

    August 5, 2017 at 1:54 am

    I have seen some of that too; didnt know it was real , tho … i mean, the phone is that strong – must be at least a little – exagerated: but i have read about the agm x2 tho: i dunno about durabilty yet but the specs are reeeeally good!the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 alone is quite interesting in that price range

    • Luis Tejada

      August 5, 2017 at 2:30 am

      The ruggeds usually ARE more expensive but , dude: they are too good i mean: why should i get a phone that is gonna break for a ridiculous fall if i can have something like the X1 or x2 ( talking about AGM) for waaay less than a sansumg… not even nomu; their phones are not like they look in their annoucements and their Customer services is awful; i honestly prefer Agm most that all for the good english customer service and the specs too.

  2. Luis Tejada

    August 5, 2017 at 2:30 am

    I love WJLF in this one! He is my fav! By the way, i have seen him promoting this brand before ( Agm phones) , a friend of mine have one and it looks amazing but i am too embarassed to ask him to let me toss his phone like in the movie xD

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China Arts & Entertainment

Entertainment Shows and Foreign Programs Banned from Prime Time TV in China

China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) issued a notice this weekend that Chinese television stations should refrain from broadcasting TV dramas “focused on entertaining” or “programs with foreign elements” during primetime.

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China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) issued a notice this weekend that Chinese television stations should refrain from broadcasting TV dramas “focused on entertainment” or “programs with foreign elements” during primetime.

China’s SAPPRFT issued a notice this weekend regarding new regulations on primetime TV in China. The announcement, titled “Central Notice regarding the Orientation of Variety Channels and Platforms Broadcasting Cultural Items” (总局关于把电视上星综合频道办成讲导向, 有文化的传播平台的通知), was cited by all major official news outlets in China. The new guidelines drew some criticism on Chinese social media.

The 5-page notice was also shared on Weibo.

With the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China coming up this autumn, authorities have recently been strengthening control over Chinese websites, online videos, and television content.

The latest guidelines prescribe that TV series about “sensitive topics,” TV dramas “too focused on entertaining” (“娱乐性较强、题材内容较敏感的电视剧”), and programs with “foreign elements” should be banned from prime time TV in China.

Instead, authorities “encourage” TV channels to “increase the number and frequency of programs about things such as the public good, culture, science & technology, and economy” (“总局鼓励电视上星综合频道在黄金时段增加公益、文化、科技、经济类节目的播出数量和频次”).

China has around 2500 television channels at central, provincial, municipal and county level. Although they are commercialized, and often owned by a mixed group of investors, they are still supervised by the SAPPRFT and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) – all television stations have to adhere to government broadcasting guidelines.

According to Xinhua News and Global Times, the latest measures are meant to contain the “hyping of pop stars” (“追星炒星”). Chinese television programs should rather focus on celebrities with “high moral standards” who offer “an educational value for the society.”

The programmes aired by China Central Television (CCTV), China’s main state broadcaster, should “serve as an example” for other channels, Xinhua said.

 

“Now we’ll all just have to watch the red classics, worship the Party and adore the military.”

 

Luo Ping, a media expert with the Communication University of China, was quoted by Global Times; about restricting programs with foreign elements on Chinese TV, Luo said: “Without careful examination, these foreign programs could easily deliver negative or harmful messages about our country, which will have a huge social impact.”

Although discussions of this topic were limited on Chinese social media, the people who commented on the latest measures were not pleased.

China has one of the world’s most booming TV drama industries in the world. Daily, millions of Chinese TV drama fans tune in to their favorite shows – nothing is trending more often on Chinese social media than the titles of the most popular TV dramas.

“Oh man, now I can only watch the news when I get home from work..”, one netizen complained.

Another female Weibo user commented on the latest guidelines with a short monologue:

“What do you think about the latest restrictions?”
– “Can I use profanities?”
“No you can’t.”
– “Then I have nothing to say.”

“Now we’ll all just have to watch the red classics, worship the Party and adore the military,” one anonymous Weibo user wrote.

By Manya Koetse

Thanks to Miranda Zhou Barnes (abearandapig.com).

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Top 5 Chinese Television Dramas This Summer

Not a day goes by without television dramas becoming a trending topic on Chinese social media. Some Chinese hit TV drama’s took over 17 years of preparation, others have over a billion views – this is an overview of the five dramas that are trending this summer.

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Not a day goes by without television dramas becoming a trending topic on Chinese social media. Some Chinese hit TV drama’s took over 17 years of preparation, others have over a billion views. This is an overview of the five dramas that are trending this summer by What’s on Weibo.

The popularity of Chinese television dramas continues to grow – not just within China, but also internationally.

Xinhua News recently featured a story about Vietnamese youth getting hooked on dramas from the PRC. But many people from other countries outside of China are also getting more addicted to Chinese television dramas. On various online video platforms, such as Viki.com, thousands of drama fans volunteer to subtitle dramas to make them accessible to people who don’t understand the language.

A continuing trend over the last decade is the huge popularity of Chinese costume dramas. What is noticeable is that TV dramas relating to the Sino-Japanese war, previously one of the most popular historical genres, now seem to have become less popular.

Based on the popularity charts on Weibo, Sohu TV, and Baidu, these are the five hottest Chinese TV drama this summer.

 

#1. Princess Agents 楚乔传

Drama origin: Mainland China
Genre: Historical drama, romance, action
Broadcast start: 27 December 2016, Hunan TV
Episodes: 58
Starring: Zhao Liying aka Zanilia Zhao 赵丽颖/ Lin Genxin aka Kenny Lin 林更新 / Dou Xiao aka Shawn Dou 窦骁 / Li Qin 李沁 / Wang Yanlin 王彦霖 / Niu Junfeng 牛骏峰

The recent popularity of Princess Agents in China is enormous. Not only is the series constantly in the top trending lists on Sina Weibo, it also received over 2 billion views on Youku alone this month.

Princess Agents (楚乔传 Chu Qiao Chuan) is adapted from a novel written by Xiao Xiang Donger (潇湘冬儿). The story takes place during the time of the Western Wei (535-557), a period of chaos, where ordinary citizens are kidnapped and turned into slaves.

One of these slaves is the young and rebellious girl Chu Qiao, played by the pretty Zanilia Zhao. The story starts with Chu Qiao, suffering from amnesia, finding herself in a group of young female slaves who are used for entertainment for the rich lords. Dropped on a field exposed to a group of wolves, they become hunting targets in a rich man’s game.

After a bloody battlefield, in which she puts up a fight against wolves and arrows, the fierce Chu Qiao is the only one to survive. She is brought into the powerful family of Yu Wenyue (Lin Gengxin) as a maid. Her sister already serves in this household, and Chu vows to rescue her sister and flee from the situation.

The story follows Chu throughout her brave journey to keep herself and the people she loves safe from harm, and to destroy the injustice that is taking place in the world around her. She will do anything to reach her goals – even if it means becoming a spy.

Princess Agents has everything fans of Chinese dramas usually like; it is a story full of love, action, and conspiracies, in a historical setting with lush costumes and a lavish set, along with plenty of special effects that make the scenes more spectacular.

On Weibo, the topic of Princess Agents has received over 4.8 billion views. Many netizens praise Zanilia Zhao for her acting skills, and the fact that a fierce woman has the main role in this drama is something that many drama lovers seem to appreciate.

Available for viewing on YouTube with English Subtitles.

#2. Midnight Diner 深夜食堂

Drama Origin: Mainland China, previously also released in Japan and South-Korea.
Genre: Human drama, comedy, food
Broadcast start: 12 June 2017 (network Beijing TV, Zhejiang TV)
Episodes: 40
Starring: Huang Lei 黄磊 / Zhao Youting aka Mark Chao 赵又廷 / Hai Qing 海清

Midnight Diner previously came out as a Japanese TV drama in 2009 (Shinya Shokudo), and later was remade in South-Korea. Now it is time for China’s adaptation of the drama, which revolves around the happenings at a special restaurant that is only open in between midnight and 7am. The restaurant owner, played by famous actor Huang Lei, does not like to talk much – but he does love to cook while his customers share their personal stories.

The series is a popular topic on Sina Weibo, where netizens have heated debates about it. They compare the drama to the previous adaptations, and share their own restaurant stories and recipes from the Midnight Diner kitchen.

Despite its popularity, the drama is also receiving a lot of criticism for its “exaggerated acting” and “awkward lines.” Many fans say that the restaurant owner in the Chinese version is making weird food choices and they also complain that the show is not ‘Chinese’ enough.

#3. Rush to the Dead Summer 夏至未至

Drama origin: Mainland China
Genre: Romance, Youth drama
Broadcast start: 11 June 2017
Episodes: 46
Starring: Chen Xuedong aka Cheney Chen 陈学冬 / Zheng Shuang 郑爽 / Bai Jingting 白敬亭 / Xia Zitong 夏梓桐 / Chai Biyun 柴碧云 / Pang Hangchen 庞瀚辰 / Wang Yuwen 王玉雯 / Chao Zhang 张超 / Zhengge Huizi 郑合惠子

Rush to the Dead Summer (夏至未至) is a TV drama based on the novel by Guo Jingming (郭敬明) that follows a group friends during a time span of ten years as they go from their highschool life and each start their own life in society.

Many fans have been waiting a long time for this TV drama to come out, as its airing was already announced in the summer of 2016. By now, its official Weibo account has well over 1.6 million followers.

The theme song of the TV drama (video above) is also very popular. The song, titled “First Memory” (最初的记忆) is by Taiwanese singer Lala Hsu.

 

#4. White Deer Plain 白鹿原

Drama origin: Mainland China
Genre: Contemporary historical drama
Broadcast start: May 10 2017, Anhui TV, Zhejiang TV
Episodes: 85
Starring: Zhang Jiayi, He Bing, Qin Hailu, Liu Peiqi, Li Hongtao, and more.

The preparation and production of White Deer Plain was certainly not rushed; it reportedly took 17 years before this TV drama finally went on air. The drama plot is based on the award-winning Chinese literary classic by Chen Zhongshi (陈忠实) of the same name from 1993.

This work’s success in China has previously been compared to that of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. White Deer Plain was previously also turned into a movie (2011).

The historic epic follows the stories of people from several generations living on the ‘White Deer Plain,’ or North China Plain in Shanxi province, during the first half of the 20th century. This tumultuous period sees the Republican Period, the Japanese invasion, and the early days of the People’s Republic of China.

The drama has received an 8.9 star review from netizens on Douban.

#5. The Legend of Dragon Pearl 龙珠传奇

Drama origin: Mainland China
Genre: Costume, romance, idol drama
Broadcast start: 5 May 2017, Anhui TV
Episodes: 90
Starring: Yang Zi aka Andy Yang 杨紫/ Qin Junjie 秦俊杰/Shu Chang aka Jennifer Shu 舒畅

The Legend of Dragon Pearl (龙珠传奇) is the second palace drama in this top 5, which shows that the genre of traditional drama, particularly costume drama, is still very popular – arguably even more popular than before.

This Chinese television drama tells the story of the unlikely romance between the Princess Zhu Yihuan (Yang Zi), a martial arts talent and the last princess of the Ming dynasty, and Emperor Kangxi (Qin Junjie), who is the young emperor of the Qing dynasty. Their love story is not without hurdles, because the Kangxi court is actually hated by Zhu’s family as the Ming dynasty, by the Han people, was overthrown by the Manchurians who established the Qing Dynasty.

This love story gets even sweeter when you know that main players Andy Yang (Yang Zi) and Qin Junjie are also a couple in real life.

On Youku, the drama has received a total of over 2.2 billion views by now. Many fans on Weibo share their favorite scenes and share their drawings and other art works based on this successful drama.

By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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