China’s Five-Year Plan for Film: Tight Links with Cannes and 100,000 screens

Over the next five years, China plans to expand its film fleet to more than 100,000 and release at least 50 grossing films worth $ 15 million a year in order to maintain its title as the world’s largest film market, according to a new government a plan which outlines the current priorities of the film industry.

The goals are among the most concrete presented in a new five-year plan for Chinese film from 2021 to 2025, which replaces an earlier ten-year strategy from 2011 to 2020.

The ultimate goal of the plan, however, is to build China into a “strong cultural power” by 2035 – one that can only be achieved by “maintaining the party’s total leadership over filmmaking.”

Below is a breakdown of the key points in the document and what industry watchers should expect from China over the next five years.

More of becoming a “strong film power” by 2035

China will be a “strong film power” once it is able to continuously release influential “masterpieces that demonstrate the Chinese spirit, values, power and aesthetics” around the world, according to the plan.

It requires the country to produce 10 major films annually that are both “critically acclaimed and popular” and about 50 films that gross 100 million RMB ($ 15.7 million) or more.

In addition, domestic films should account for more than 55% of the total annual box office. The goal seems achievable, as local titles accounted for 62% of national sales in 2018, 64% in 2019 and 84% last year, according to data tracker Maoyan.

Greater consolidation of the exhibition sector, new cinemas in rural areas and more patriotic films

According to the plan, the country is expected to have 100,000 screens by 2025, up from 77,769 screens in March that year, according to data from the National Film Administration.

In view of the fact that the trade fair industry is already struggling with overcapacities and declining moviegoers, the destination may cause a sensation on site. However, a large number of screens are likely to be in less developed areas where authorities have called for “speeding up” cinema construction and “improving rural cinema chains to make them more competitive”.

Such new cinema halls should have at least two projection halls and at least 100 seats, be equipped with digital projection in 2K quality or higher and ideally be integrated into a broader cinema chain.

The authorities hope that such chains will outperform stand-alone theaters in the next five years, especially since their services are easier to standardize, regulate and control. The country must create a “rectification plan” for struggling chains and wayward franchisees, and seek “a full rectification” of the violations by 2025.

As the big Chinese blockbusters become increasingly politicized, the plan makes it clear that attempting to give distant peoples and regions access to cinema goes hand in hand with efforts to make patriotic content as widely known as possible.

Every cinema in the country with its seat in a city at the county level or above must dedicate a screening room for the showing of propaganda films to the so-called “people’s cinema”. This will be “the screening room for local” [propaganda] Films ”and“ Propaganda films with high ideological and artistic demands support the planning of the screening ”.

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Chinese films should strive to “create a trustworthy, lovable, and respectable image of China,” says a new five-year plan for film.
Courtesy Tiger Pictures Int’l

A flood of propaganda, science fiction and animated content that spread positivity, patriotism and an “endearing image of China”.

The plan repeatedly points out the need for content diversification, but in particular only supports political work, science fiction and animation that “show the Chinese national spirit and Eastern aesthetics” and “educate and guide young people … to build up cultural self-confidence . ”

Other categories that receive special mention and recognition are “specialty films” (presumably those in Imax or 3D format), titles that focus on rural, child or ethnic minority issues, documentaries and operas.

More films that “extol the party, the motherland, the people and the heroes in order to pass on red” [Communist] Genes and on [the Party’s] Lineage “should be made to celebrate major political milestones such as the 80th anniversary of the Korean War, the plan said.

Creators should develop “muscled and bones of motion, ethics and warmth” that “highlight the beauty of ideals and beliefs … and inspire people to move into the future with strength and vitality”.

Chinese films should strive to create a “trustworthy, lovable, and respectable image of China.”

Become a global leader at the interface between emerging high technologies and filmmaking

The plan envisages the establishment of a “national high-tech film research laboratory” to study how the Chinese film industry can be improved through cloud computing, big data, 5G, VR, AI, machine learning, deep learning, trusted computing and blockchain.

The focus will be on “breaking through foreign technology monopolies” when it comes to technology related to the motion picture industry, with China making advances and “independent intellectual property rights” in areas such as video and audio codecs, encryption and decryption of digital content, Cinema projection and device systems and digital watermarks and certificate authentication, among others. As a leader in such areas, Beijing will then “make an effort to … guide international standards”.

Great resources are also being devoted to enhancing China’s VFX skills, which are being developed hand in hand with a growing arsenal of increasingly complex science fiction films, through a strategy of “encouraging general improvement in the level of film special effects” . through the active support of science fiction films. “

Politics will rule more and more sovereignly

Over the next five years, parties will be in control of all aspects of the film industry, from production to distribution to film prices and review mechanisms to “creativity” itself.

Talent and industry professionals must “have both skills and political integrity, and put morality first,” the plan says. The political and social positioning of a film should be just as prominent as its artistic merits or its commercial attractiveness.

Because films, according to the first sentence of the plan, “are an important ideological front for the dissemination of ideological thinking … and an indicator of the cultural soft power of a country” – and thus inextricably linked with politics.

A growing presence of Chinese cinema on the international stage – and Cannes

Although China’s big blockbusters have made little or no travel to overseas audiences in the past and made their big bucks at home, the new five-year plan does not envisage a complete turn inward.

It speaks of the desire to expand China’s international distribution networks and to redouble efforts to market Chinese films abroad in a more targeted manner to different regions and audiences in order to “open up overseas markets” and “strengthen the international competitiveness of Chinese films”.

Film companies are also encouraged to “explore the international marketplace through investments, mergers and acquisitions, collaborations, and other means” – an unexpected guideline at a time when large Chinese overseas companies are pulling out of overseas exploration and such exploration with Hollywood during the inter-trade war The USA and China almost came to a standstill.

A new China booth will be set up in Cannes, Venice, Hong Kong and other major international film festivals to “show the latest achievements and developments in Chinese cinema” and “actively promote foreign film trade”.

The mention of Cannes is the first official indication that China, despite its surprising decision to show the protest documentary “Revolution of Our Times” in Hong Kong this year, will continue to participate in the festival on a large scale.

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