Film Industry In China: Profiting From Propaganda

When it comes to making a feature blockbuster, China has a tactic Hollywood can’t quite stand up against. Typically, the way to go is getting a compelling script, hiring good, recognizable actors, shoot an exciting movie, and get it marketed well. Works for Hollywood.

It works for Beijing, too, but the latest hit flick to come out of China has something unique up its sleeve: the influence of The Beginning of the Great Revival, a celebration of the Communist party’s founding. It opened at every Cineplex across China June 15th, timed to the party’s 90th birthday.

All popular films that might compete with the film about the adventures of a young Mao Zedong were blocked. Quite a few companies owned by the state made it mandatory for their staff to attend, and students were taken on movie-going fieldtrips to learn about their history on the big screen. Governments sent in their bureaucrats. If the film got a poor review online, it was censored. The game was fixed: it was successful.

Despite the government endorsement of the film, it wasn’t produced by the government itself for propaganda — it was produced by the China Film Group, the country’s most substantial film company, who are responsible for over half of the film distribution in China. Most commonly, CFG films are about the popular themes: love and war, disaster and drama — and kung fu, naturally.

It’s in the nationalistic topics that haul in the most money, however, with films such as The Founding of a Republic and Nanking! Nanking! leading the way most recently. In the former film, famous stars worked for nothing — hence, profits. Cinema in China is flourishing. It made over 520 in 2010 — roughly the same as America, rivaled only by India (of course). They have the largest outdoor film studio in the whole word, which has a full-scale replica of the Forbidden City right in it.

China’s cinemas are clean, state-of-the-art — and expensive. Many of their films aren’t very marketable outside of China, but while some parts of the world suffer from cinema-goers being harder to lure when films can wait until DVD or be watched online (illegally), the Chinese are flocking to the movies for the experience.

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