Online movies reshaping Chinese cinema
The Internet is reshaping Chinese cinema with the emergence of creative and influential online movies.
In 2014 when online movies debuted in China, they mostly catered for the tastes of young male viewers who spent a lot of time on the Internet. But now the genre has become a catalyst for the domestic film industry, with 1,526 productions made last year.
The number of iQiyi’s paid subscribers has exceeded 100 million. Those under 24 years old take up the largest proportion of viewers. There is also an 80 percent increase in the number of paid subscribers over the age of 30 years old. It reveals a growing demand for original online content.
A new program for original online movies has been launched by iQiyi. Each film project will receive a budget of 20-50 million yuan. The first series of movies includes comedy flick “ATM,” disaster film “Spring in Fever” and war epic “Tank Number 1.”
The online streaming platform also plans to update more than 1,000 new movies, 100 online drama series and 60 variety shows in 2019. These movies and drama series will cover a wide range of genres, including suspense, comedy, sports and urban romance.
According to Ya Ning, president of iQiyi Pictures, their new program will be a win-win cooperation with cinema lines, and an approach to support small and medium budgeted productions.
Compared with blockbuster movies, films with small and medium budgets usually don’t get good or long screening slots at the cinema. Without many resources for marketing and promotion, the success of such movies largely depends on the feedback of moviegoers and their recommendations on WeChat and Douban, one of China’s most widely used review websites. The new program is expected to support these movies from funding, technology, data analysis to online distribution and marketing.
Meanwhile, online platforms are also strengthening their cooperation with young talented filmmakers.
“We have seen huge potential in the genre of online movies,” said Ya. “The creativity and passion of young filmmakers will incubate many good stories in the future.”
A new era of entertainment is also coming with 5G. Domestic online streaming websites are exploring new modes for content and production to grasp 5G innovation opportunities.
Insiders believe that the quality and artistry of online films will be largely improved by avant-garde technology, more original real-life stories and new marketing modes.
Later this year another Internet magnate Youku will present China’s first “seasonal film” based on an online novel about women in Beijing. Four installments are planned for four seasons throughout the year. A few vertical screen movies and interactive movies will also be produced for cellphone users.
The flourish of the film industry will also propel the development of Chinese film IPs and cross-border cooperation. The business of IP commercialization is developing rapidly in China.
Nina Xie, general manager of The H Collective China, says that a good movie IP must be constantly generating content. It must have a very memorable logo, and it must reflect universal values.
“These three essential things that make a good movie IP can attract a bigger audience and create more business opportunities for brand owners,” Xie said.
The H Collective, an international film and television company with abundant resources of film IPs, has just announced its co-branding plan between hit horror film “Brightburn” with fashion socks brand Stance. It will also produce films including “The Beast,” “The Reminders,” and “Cat’s Eye” in the next three years.
Xie has also noticed the increasingly significant part the Internet plays in film production and distribution. They are considering putting their films “Brightburn” and “The Parts You Lose” on a streaming platform.
“As Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime develop, their audiences grew higher standards toward content, which means a bigger challenge for a film company, but it also provides more channels and possibilities for movies,” Xie added.
“Good movies should be exposed as much as possible to a bigger audience.”
However, during the process of IP development, there are still a lot of challenges for domestic film producers in terms of an audience’s constantly changing demands.
Xie said that they have to explore more possibilities, and it usually takes a long time to develop a new IP. More patience and concentration on content is required. The cultural differences cannot be ignored as well.
“Although film companies today in China mainly profit from the box office, while derivatives didn’t account for the film market as much as the US market, we have faith in the IP business and it will bring more international IP and co-branding products with innovative ideas,” she added.