China’s SAPPRFT releases 2014 box-office figures

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The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT, often shortened to “China Film Bureau”), China’s media industry-governing body, has released the official box-office figures for the first half of 2014. Total box-office takings in the first six months amounted to RMB 13.7 billion ($2.22 billion), compared to RMB 11 billion ($1.78 bil.) last year, which corresponds to a year-on-year increase of almost exactly 25 percent.

As in previous years, foreign movies—primarily Hollywood blockbusters—continued to command a slim majority share over domestic productions in the first half, accounting for 51.7 percent (RMB 7.11 bil.) of gross revenue. The top-earning foreign movie so far this year is Transformers: Age of Extinction, which at press time still enjoyed strong ticket sales, having raked up roughly RMB 1.77 billion ($286.6 mil.). The highest-grossing domestic film so far is action-adventure The Monkey King, which had earned approximately RMB 1.04 billion ($167.8 mil.) by the time it exited the country’s top ten movie list in early March. In 2013, year-on-year box-office revenue grew by 36 percent in the first six months, but the figure for the entire year was eventually revised down to 27 percent. China continues to be the world’s second-largest movie market after the United States.

Hollow Hopes to Revive Horror Genre in Vietnam
With its release by Vietnamese film studio BHD on July 18 in theatres nationwide, local movie buffs are holding high hopes that horror shocker Hollow (Đoạt Hồn) will be able to revive the long-suppressed genre in this Southeast Asian nation. Up until 1975, the Republic of South Vietnam had produced a slew of rather successful horror flicks. However, after reunification with the North, virtually no horror movies were produced until well into the new millennium, because Vietnam’s authorities didn’t want to promote superstitions among the general population, and thus discouraged the genre altogether. Accordingly, the small handful of domestic horror films released in recent years all fell victim to heavy censorship and subsequently failed miserably at the box office.

However, the situation lately has apparently become somewhat more relaxed, as horror productions from other regional countries started being screened in Vietnam on a quite regular basis. In 2013, Thai horror comedy Pee Mak Phrakanong captured horror-starved local audiences and became the highest-grossing Thai film ever shown in Vietnam, earning more than $700,000 in box-office receipts. This development apparently emboldened local studio BDH to try to produce its own horror movie—and with all the right trimmings and jump scares.

After watching his directorial debut, romantic comedy How to Fight in Six Inch Heels (2013), the studio reportedly approached Vietnamese-American director Ham Tran, who had left Vietnam for the United States at the age of eight and only returned a few years ago. Studio executives also were delighted to learn that the young director had a suitable horror script ready, a project he had pursued for a considerable time but was never able to realize. After a lengthy censorship process lasting almost two months, Hollow finally received approval and filming started in January this year.

“[The movie] contains a few scary ghost scenes, but mostly thrives on psychological terror moments that will keep audiences up in their seats. It’s the first domestically produced horror film imparting that level of [nerve-racking] intensity, and we all are really pushing the envelope of what is allowed in Vietnam in terms of horror movies,” Tran said in a studio-released statement.

Hollow tells the story of a young girl who drowns in a river and is swept away by the current. A week later, a relative goes to collect her body in a remote village, but finds her very much alive. Taking her back to her parents, he neglects to tell them that she was found dead, but somehow came back to life. As the movie progresses, strange things begin to happen in the house as the terrified family gradually discovers that the little girl is actually possessed by an evil entity.

ChinaVision Warns Investors of Heavy Loss
Hong Kong-based ChinaVision Media Group Ltd. on July 18 announced to its investors that they will have to brace for a capital loss projected to amount to between HKD 97 million and 180 million ($12.5 mil to $23.2 mil.) in the first half of 2014, due to an estimated year-on-year total revenue decrease of 70 to 75 percent. The company attributed this substantial revenue decline to two main factors. Firstly, ChinaVision had to put certain unnamed development strategies on hold after its recent acquisition of Alibaba Group. But once the acquisition procedures are complete, the company expects its financial situation to improve significantly and also will change its name to Alibaba Pictures Group Ltd. Secondly, the studio said that the movies it had produced in the first half of 2014 would not be ready for release until well into the second half of 2014, tying up further capital and impeding earnings. However, the company did not mention the number or titles of these movies in its announcement, nor what further film projects it has planned for this year. ChinaVision recently signed cooperation agreements with fellow movie studios We Pictures Ltd. and Star Ritz International Entertainment Co. Ltd., as well as Block 2 Pictures Inc. and well-known director Wong Kar-wai

For inquiries and feedback, contact Thomas Schmid at thaitom03@loxinfo.co.th