China's movie industry made a great leap forward in 2010. The country's box-office receipts for 2010 surpassed 10 billion yuan ($1.49 billion) for the first time in history. This marks a 60 percent increase in ticket sales from 2009. From international hits like Avatar to domestic blockbusters such as Feng Xiaogang's Aftershock, Zhang Yimou's Under the Hawthorn Tree and Chen Kaige's Sacrifice, 2010 marks a turning point for contemporary Chinese film.
Take Jiang Wen's Let the Bullets Fly as an example. The film, starring the director himself, Ge You, and Hong Kong veteran actor Chow Yun-fat, brought in 400 million yuan ($59.7 million) in its first two weeks alone. This number is almost four times higher than its budget of 110 million yuan ($16.42 million).
China's box office sales have increased at an annual rate of 30 percent on average since economic reforms relating to China's movie industry were passed in 2003. The number of movie theaters in the country has also increased. The total number of screens in China now exceeds 6,000, with an average of three new movie theaters being constructed every day.
According to Tong Gang, head of the film bureau under the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, the film bureau will strengthen its supervision of these new theaters and establish an open and transparent box office reporting system that will cover all theaters in China.
Since 2009, Chinese moviemakers have been pushing to go public both at home and abroad. On December 9, 2010, the Beijing-based BONA Film Group Corporation became the first Chinese film and television company to be listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
The year 2010 also featured more cooperation between Chinese and foreign filmmakers. Shanghai, The Karate Kid, and Hot Summer Days were jointly produced by Chinese and American studios. Last December, a major Hollywood studio bought the rights to remake Let the Bullets Fly, and Jiang Wen himself has been invited to direct the U.S. remake. Past dealings saw Hollywood selling film rights to Chinese filmmakers without necessarily cooperating in the production of those films, but now it seems that the tables have turned.
Beginning on March 19, China will increase foreign access to the domestic movie market in accordance with an agreement between China and the World Trade Organization. This move will create new challenges for China's movie industry, but will also offer a new opportunity for its development.