Film officials unveil five-year plan
Updated: December 15, 2021 07:29 China Daily

As part of efforts to promote the high-quality development of the country's film industry, the China Film Administration recently issued its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) to guide the way to fulfilling the Vision 2035 goal of building China into a major cinematic player.

According to the latest statistics from the China Movie Channel, there are currently 80,743 screens in 14,235 cinemas — the largest single number in the world for the past four years — and the plan aims to raise this figure to 100,000 screens by 2025 in an attempt to boost filmgoing. The number of cinemas is also expected to increase.

Given that most cinemas are clustered in cities, some industry observers predict that a new cinema construction spree will expand to rural areas.

Under the plan, populated areas with comparatively strong economies that exert an influence over surrounding areas will have priority, with each new theater possessing at least two screens with 100 seats and a minimum of a 2K digital projection system.

Li Daoxi, deputy dean of the School of Arts at Peking University, said residents in towns and villages are increasingly demanding diversified cultural and entertainment content in line with the country's rural vitalization strategy.

"During the decades between the founding of New China and the early 1980s, the country built a huge distribution network covering many cities, towns and villages, giving most people the opportunity to watch movies," said Li, citing Jet Li's martial arts blockbuster Shaolin Temple — which sold over 500 million tickets in 1982 — as an example.

It was once quite common for teams to haul equipment to the countryside to screen movies outdoors for eager rural residents.

But the rise of television has led more people to stay home and created a challenge for the domestic film industry, which struggled between mid-1990s and early 2000s, until reforms and an influx of capital boosted budgets and special effects production, reinvigorating the market over the past decade, he explained.

Li said he believes the plan will strengthen the domestic film industry by attracting more viewers, thus contributing to overall national development.

The plan also stipulated that overall box office receipts for domestic films should account for at least 55 percent of annual receipts, a threshold significantly lower than the 84 percent and 64 percent it accounted for last year and in 2019, respectively.

According to Li, this stipulation indicates that China will continue to welcome foreign films, especially international award winners.

The plan is also focused on improving quality while maintaining output. Studios have been encouraged to focus on producing at least 10 "masterpieces" — in other words, films that are both "critically well-received and popular" — and the domestic industry is expected to produce about 50 blockbusters — films that gross over 100 million yuan — each year during the plan.

Rao Shuguang, president of the China Film Critics Association, said that based on previous achievements, these are reasonable goals.

"Chinese filmmakers have gained more confidence in their ability to tell stories about our culture and history in recent years, which is reflected by the emergence of a number of patriotic and historical blockbusters," Rao added.

Over the years, the industry has struggled to develop homegrown cinematic techniques in areas such as advanced screening systems and special effects.

The plan also urged greater industry support for Chinese Sci Fi films and for breakthroughs in key technologies to help improve the visual effects sector.

"The revolution of Chinese cinematic technology has been explored for more than 10 years. China's self-developed technology — for instance, the Cinity Cinema System, which is capable to screen movies shot at 120 frames per second — will help Chinese filmmakers catch up with the world's best," said Zhi Feina, a professor at the Film and Television Research Institute of the Chinese National Academy of Arts, adding that most films are shot at 24 frames per second, or fps.

Cinity is also able to present films originally shot at 24 fps in higher-definition formats such as 48 or 60 fps to increase their immersive effect, a technique that has been used in Chinese blockbusters such as The Battle at Lake Changjin, currently the world's highest-grossing film, and Detective Chinatown 3, a smash hit that debuted during this year's Spring Festival holiday.

Yin Hong, vice-chairman of the China Film Association, said that the plan conveyed another important message, which was to clearly emphasize implementation of the Film Industry Promotion Law.

The law, which took effect in 2017 and is the first of its kind in China, requires filmmakers, investors, distributors and associated sectors to promote domestic movies.

Yin said the plan will serve as a practical guide, ensuring stable and sustainable development of the industry.

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