China Day: an amazing opportunity for the European cinema industry

During the day of B2B meetings, around 20 co-production projects were presented to a delegation of Chinese producers, content providers and investors. According to ANICA – which in 2013 opened a help desk in Beijing for Italian productions in China and for Chinese investors in Italy – a pilot-project for the distribution of Italian films in the Lumiere group theatres will soon be fine-tuned with the support of MiSe. The partnership with the Beijing Film Festival will be renewed by offering a second round of events for Italian projects. Finally, a window for Italian and European cinema will be opened during the course of next year on the famous digital platform iQIYI

Speaking at the forum “Italy & China; theatres, TV, platforms: the keyword is co-production” on Sunday 19, president of ICE – ITA, Riccardo Monti, announced that the company will assign a full time agent to the cinema industry in China. “China itself has chosen our country as its preferred European representative and we must take advantage of this”.

For the President of the CFCC (China Film Co-Production Company), Miao Xiaotian, the partnership is turning into a real opportunity within the framework of a marked shift towards the internationalization of Chinese cinema, which has found an important representative in Italy. Co-productions between China and other countries are growing rapidly, at a rate of 50% per year and they represent a third of overall takings. Chinese box office revenue rose 32% in the first nine months of the year to reach $3.55 billion (21.6 billion yuan), already nearly equalling last year’s full year total. “The Chinese cinema industry has developed rapidly in recent years”, confirmed Xiaotian, “the number of theatres increased exponentially: 4 thousand cinemas for 15 thousand screens, and we aim to have 20 thousand very shortly”.

Miao Xiaotian explained that a quota exists in China to limit to 34 the number of foreign films that can be distributed. Fourteen of these must be animation films in 3D; of the other 20, about 80% are Hollywood productions. “In order to co-produce”, advised Xiaotian, “you must find a reliable Chinese partner, a story that has elements that can culturally involve the participating countries and a cast of actors that represent both nationalities”.

Producer Stephen Lam from Sil Metropole confirmed that the safest way of bypassing the quota and getting into Chinese theatres is co-production. “It’s important to work with the CFCC, which follows the project and all of the bureaucratic formalities, right up to the movie’s release in theatres”.

In 2015 the Chinese digital platform iQiyi, owned by giant Baidu, will open a window for Italian and European cinema. “In five years, revenues from internet distribution will be equal to box office revenues in China,” said iQiyi senior vice-president, Yang Xianghua. “The VOD market is growing very fast, with an increase of 500 % from one year to the next. Due to the quota limits on theatrical distribution for foreign films, online distribution is a good choice when entering the Chinese market.”

A new European initiative called Bridging Vision aims to strengthen existing relations between Chinese producers and those on the Old Continent. This association is based in Berlin and has already set a first date to develop common strategies during the Berlinale in February 2015, as reported by Sophie Bourdon and Cristiano Bortone. Among the members and partners are important companies, like German Senator, Ridley Scott’s Scott Free, the Locarno Film Festival, the Shanghai D-hive fund and various European institutions including the Italian Mibact.