Who is La Peikang and How Did He Get Here?

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La Peikang

By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

February 11, 2013

There’s a new sheriff in town and his name is La.

OK, that didn’t quite have the gravitas I was going for. The point is that China’s New Year’s holiday week is over and the dominant organization of China’s film industry, China Film Group, has a new Chairman, La Peikang (喇培康).

La’s appointment to the PRC’s top film job signals a new direction and some interesting potential changes in the years ahead, both for Chinese filmmakers and distributors and their overseas counterparts. Namely, La’s extensive international experience overseas and in China’s co-production bureaucracy point to a likely increased focus by CFG on international cooperation and expansion.

Variously described by those who know him as “serious,” “educated and academic,” “quietly effective,” “well-liked” and “outward looking,” La could scarcely be more different than his predecessor, Han Sanping.

In the role he held for ten years, Han Sanping was a hustler, a mover-and-shaker who presided over the massive rise of China’s film industry from its status as a tiny backwater with a mere 0.7 percent share of the global box office in 2003 to its emergence as the world’s most dynamic movie territory, with a 10 percent (and rapidly rising) share of the worldwide pie in 2013.

I remember the early days of his tenure when Han Sanping would show up in Hollywood unknown and barely acknowledged, begging for meetings with studio execs, agents, movie stars, anyone who would pay attention. Most dismissed him in those days as unworthy of their time, because China was so negligible as a territory, let alone as a potential source of financing. But Han’s “Baqi” (覇气) loosely translated as “lord’s air” or “domineering spirit,” drove him to oversee the incredibly rapid modernization of the Chinese market, with the construction of 16,000 new cinema screens and a corresponding 2,700 percent increase in domestic box office receipts. Nowadays, thanks largely to Han’s contributions, China is on everyone’s mind, and it would be difficult to find a serious agent or executive who doesn’t know his name.

Given the legacy that Han created, La will find that the tables have turned and that studio heads and movie stars will eagerly, if not desperately, court his favor. Those who meet him will experience a completely different breed of Chinese movie czar. In contrast to Han’s bulldog approach, La is a more sophisticated executive, a fluent English and French speaker who is apparently viewed by China’s leaders as the right person to lead their country’s movie business to maturity and, they hope, to increasing global influence.

Before his appointment was announced, few anticipated that La would be the one to win the top job. It’s not that he lacked credentials—he was Deputy Chairman of the SARFT Film Bureau, and he had previously run an important CFG subsidiary, the internationally focused China Film Co-Production Company. But other candidates were more in the public eye, perhaps because they were more effective at outwardly promoting themselves.

When it came down to it though, it was La’s connections, his political skills, and his perceived loyalty to his Chinese Communist Party bosses that ultimately allowed him to prevail. He was chosen for the job by the Party’s ultra secretive, extraordinarily powerful Organization Department (中国共产党中央组织部), China’s political king-making office. Richard McGregor of The Financial Times described the Organization Department’s status thusly:

“To glean a sense of the dimensions of the Organization Department’s job, [imagine] a parallel body in Washington…that would oversee the appointments of every US state governor and their deputies; the mayors of big cities; heads of federal regulatory agencies; the chief executives of General Electric, ExxonMobil, Walmart and 50-odd of the remaining largest companies; justices on the Supreme Court; the editors of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, the bosses of the television networks and cable stations, the presidents of Yale and Harvard and other big universities and the heads of think-tanks such as the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation.”

This Organization Department controls more than 70 million party personnel assignments across the country, and it is no small matter to win their approval for senior party roles like La’s. Although, as McGregor wrote, “their vetting process takes place behind closed doors and appointments are announced without any explanation about why they have been made,” it’s not difficult to imagine intense lobbying, backbiting, mudslinging, and all manner of political fisticuffs. And La would have had to pass intense scrutiny– the Organization Department has access to dossiers and background checking capabilities that put the CIA and NSA to shame.

So don’t let La’s quiet, academic demeanor fool you; he’s undoubtedly as tough and effective as they come in China’s political bureaucracy. And that’s saying a lot.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com.


China’s Film Investors: Harvest Seven Stars Fund Hopes to Fly Where Others Have Fallen

By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

February 7, 2012

Yesterday’s flurry of press articles regarding the newly announced Harvest Seven Stars Media Private Equity Fund (HSSMPEF) got me thinking about how easy it is these days to get tongues wagging regarding the promise of Chinese money for Hollywood movies, and how difficult the reality of putting that money to work can be.

The purported $800 million fund is a co-venture between private equity firms Harvest Alternative Investment Group and Sun Redrock Investment Group. The latter company is managed by Bruno Wu and Yang Lan, the Chinese media power couple who I profiled here last week.

The fund’s ambitions, as described by Wu, are lofty: to source and distribute “global movies, primarily English-language films that are not just going to be released in China, but really produced by Hollywood and released on a global basis.”

As a big booster of China-Hollywood cooperation, I’m pleased to see such an ambitious venture mounted. But on the other hand, I’ve seen too many of these sort of initiatives fail to get very excited about what is, after all, just a concept at this point. Other, far larger Chinese investors have attempted to accomplish the same feat that Wu and his partners say they’re pursuing, and all have so far failed to even get to the starting gate. I was close to two of these previous initiatives (confidentiality obligations prohibit me from naming them) and I’m wondering how the new fund will avoid the obstacles and pitfalls that doomed those prior undertakings.

Let’s start with this question: Is the $800 million really there? Is it really $400 million? $100 million? Is there really any committed capital at all? There’s no way to know for sure; China’s securities laws don’t allow for the sort of transparency that other countries require. The new fund’s principals have long track records and their continued success presumably rests on their reputations, so I’m willing to accept that the money’s there. But then again, if it isn’t, it wouldn’t be the first time in recent months that a ‘major’ Chinese-funded film investment partnership turned out to be nothing but vapor.

Another fundamental issue: where’s the film development, production or distribution experience in the HSSMPEF partnership? As far as I can tell, the principals of the two funds have made and released exactly one movie between them. A made-for-internet movie.

But money and experience aren’t even the biggest problems. There’s plenty of money in China, plenty of money interested in funding movies. And relevant experience can be bought (warning: don’t click that link if you’re easily offended by shameless acts of self-promotion). The real challenge, the one that has yet to be surmounted by Chinese investors or their co-production partners, is the creative challenge.

The creative challenge boils down to two fundamental sticking points that caused other, similar film investment schemes to fail. First, China’s censorship strictures. For anyone doing business in China who wishes to continue doing business in China, it is critically important not to anger the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). That means ensuring, with no risk for error, that none of the movies you fund will in any way violate the rules and taboos promulgated by SARFT, or make China or the CCP look bad.

This is a very big deal. Even a cursory review of the SARFT rules reveals that they are antithetical to popular, commercial filmmaking. Without sex, violence, horror, or crime, there’s not much room for entertainment in movies made for adult audiences. Any Chinese fund investing in films–whether made in China, in Hollywood, or anywhere else–will be held strictly accountable to these rules. But Hollywood filmmakers will find it almost impossible to be governed by them. Balancing these opposing tensions has proven an unattainable goal for previous Chinese investment fund hopefuls.

The second creative obstacle is the severe shortage of available co-production screenplays. Very few in Hollywood know how to write a script that can satisfy China’s censors while also serving as the basis for a film with appeal to Chinese audiences as well as global ones. Almost no one in China can do this either. My company, Pacific Bridge Pictures, has a team of writer-producers focused on this very challenge, and there are a few others who have the necessary cross-cultural backgrounds and development skills needed to thread that needle. But an $800 million fund is going to have a very difficult time finding or generating enough material to fill its production pipeline.

In short, for HSSMPEF to succeed, it will have to pull off a major balancing act. Wu, Yang, and their partners are all smart, capable, successful people, but they’re rushing headlong into uncharted territory on a tightrope.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com.

Chinese ‘Flowers’ Wilt in U.S. Theatrical Release

by Robert Cain for China Film Biz

January 25, 2012

If the message hadn’t fully gotten through yet, last weekend’s box office results confirmed it: China has no idea how to make movies that Americans—or the world—will pay to see.

The latest Chinese film to crash on the rocks of U.S. shores is The Flowers of War, the mainland Chinese blockbuster that opened on 30 North American screens this past Friday. The film seemed tailor-made to captivate global audiences, and with its $90 million price tag, it needed to. But despite its international star (Christian Bale), its world-renowned director (Zhang Yimou), a major U.S. producer (David Linde) who had massive prior success with Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and a veteran distributor (Chris Ball), Flowers drooped on arrival with a paltry $48,448 and a per screen average of just $1,615.

Flowers continues a 5 year long string of international misfires from China. Chinese releases in the U.S. have rarely grossed more than $500,000. Even those that earn $50 million or $100 million in their home country typically fail to travel.

It’s not that Chinese films never work in the U.S. and internationally, but successes are extremely rare. The last real hit to emerge from the PRC was Jet Li’s Fearless, which sold $43 million worth of tickets in the U.S. back in 2006.  Hero (also starring Jet Li) grossed $53 million in 2004, and House of Flying Daggers took in $11 million that same year. The highest grossing Chinese language film of all time, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, was in fact not a Chinese film at all: its producers were from America and Hong Kong, its director a Taiwanese-American.

The failures are not for lack of trying. Most every Chinese producer, director, and financier desperately wants a meaningful slice of the international market. More than anyone, China’s Communist Party wants to export Chinese culture to global audiences in order to counteract the “creeping cultural influence of the West.” But they’re going about things all wrong.

For one thing, there are virtually zero writers in China who know the first thing about writing film stories that would appeal to international filmgoers. Cultural barriers are certainly an issue, but an even bigger issue is that Chinese studios and investors on the whole have no understanding of the development process. With little respect for writers and even less desire to invest in them, China is doomed to keep making films that are mostly mediocre at best, and terrible at worst.

Another major problem is that China’s film censors scrub out so much of the realism, titillation and thrills from their countrymen’s films that they leave them bland and tedious. Their need to micro-manage and sanitize the themes, characters and genre elements of films is anathema to good storytelling.

A third factor is the unquestioned primacy of Chinese directors, who shoot and edit their films with totalitarian disregard for the input of others. While Hollywood’s collaborative approach to filmmaking is far from perfect, its process of allowing cinematographers, editors, production designers, composers, and other craftsmen to meaningfully contribute and even challenge the director usually leads to better results than the Chinese approach of empowering the director to run roughshod over everyone else.

Chinese filmmakers know that their films don’t travel, and the smart ones know they need help. Hollywood has much to offer to them, if only they would listen.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and www.pacificbridgepics.com.

China’s Third Affliction and the Soft Power of Film

By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

December 11, 2011

China’s increasing focus on exporting its values could ironically spell opportunity for foreign filmmakers. Read on to learn how and why.

Back in 2008 the term “three afflictions” began appearing in the Chinese press to describe the major impediments that hampered China’s national strength during the past century. These were foreign aggression, poverty stemming from a weak economy, and the demonization of China by ‘hateful’ and ‘ignorant’ Western nations.

As the press stories told it, the first affliction was conquered by Mao Zedong when he unified China under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and expelled the last of the foreign occupiers, the Japanese. The second was thrown off when Deng Xiaoping declared “to get rich is glorious” and engineered the great Chinese economic miracle that continues to the present day.

With the first two afflictions licked, the CCP has now set its sights on tackling the third, which can be summed up as poor global public opinion. Government leaders are concerned that China’s negative image stands in the way of its international influence, and they’ve decided to do something about it.

A major party initiative to project China’s ‘soft power’—that is, its ability to shape global events by promoting its cultural values around the world—was announced in November by President Hu Jintao when he delivered a policy speech urging the country’s artists and writers to “get closer to the realities and lives of the masses, to uphold the spiritual torch of the Chinese nationality, and to produce a greater number of excellent works that live up to the history, the times, and the people.”

And then he said something that must have jolted every Chinese artist and intellectual: “Let all flowers bloom together and let hundreds of schools contend.” This statement directly echoed Chairman Mao’s famous 1957 statement “Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend to promote progress in the arts and sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.”

OK, enough history; what does all of this mean for filmmakers?

For one thing, it means money. Lots of it. Hu and his colleagues in the CCP are anxious that Western culture and values have gone global in a way that Chinese culture and values have not, so they are investing billions in the effort to export China’s own value system, building the world’s most modern soundstages, production facilities, post production houses, animation houses, and the like. ‘Soft power’ and the cultural means to promote it have been elevated to the highest level of strategic importance. This is tantamount to a war of words and ideas with the West.

But it takes more than artillery to win a war, it takes skilled personnel to operate the machinery. Winning minds takes the ability to generate creative ideas and the skills of persuasion, capabilities that the CCP sorely lacks. The post-1949 Communists have never before had to compete in the marketplace of ideas because in China they own and control the market.

To compete on the global stage China will need skills that it hasn’t needed before. Skills like story development and screenwriting for international audiences. Sophistication in marketing, advertising and distribution to successfully circulate movies to the far-flung corners of the globe. Above all, the ability to understand what makes international filmgoers tick: why they go to see the movies they do and why they don’t go to see Chinese movies.

These skills and capabilities aren’t going to magically appear inside China; they will almost certainly need to be imported. China’s top filmmakers—skilled directors like Zhang Yimou and Feng Xiaogang—have generated huge and loyal followings inside the country, but they do hardly any business outside. For instance, Feng’s recent Chinese blockbuster melodrama Aftershock, which racked up nearly $100 million in ticket sales in China, earned a paltry $62,962 from its release in the U.S.

More than either side realizes, China needs Hollywood. And for Hollywood’s legions of skilled but underemployed writers, directors, producers, rotoscopers, sound editors, marketers, distributors and other talents, this means money and opportunity. If you’re one of these talents, China has a shortage of your kind of expertise, and piles of cash to pay you for it.

Will seizing these opportunities mean selling out your values and becoming a mouthpiece (喉舌) of the Communist Party? Hardly. The past decade’s two greatest examples of films that successfully promoted Chinese culture were made by outsiders pursuing their own self-interest.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, directed by Taiwan’s (!!!) Ang Lee, swept the world with beautiful and sensuous images of China, earning $200 million worldwide (nearly $300 million in 2011 dollars). And Dreamworks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda films have been highly praised by CCP members for their ability to entertain audiences both inside and outside China while remaining faithful to traditional Confucian values. The two Panda films have earned $1.3 billion in worldwide box office receipts, and  Dreamworks’ Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg is in talks to set up a $300 million joint venture to make films in China. Although Katzenberg and Lee have done a great deal of good for China, no one is accusing them of being Communist Party lackeys or sympathizers.

Foreign filmmakers have an additional advantage over their Chinese counterparts: freedom. Remember Hu Jintao’s exhortation to “let flowers bloom and hundreds of schools contend”? His intent must have been to send a chilling reminder to the Chinese that their ideas and artistic contributions are welcome only so long as they toe the line of political correctness and espouse the party’s message. When Mao Zedong launched the original “100 Flowers” campaign in 1957, he encouraged uninhibited public discourse to uncover a variety of views and solutions to national policy issues. After six weeks of this ‘experiment’ with freedom of expression, Mao swiftly repressed or executed those whose views offended him. While Chinese artists must be extremely cautious to avoid a similar fate, the worst that can happen to foreign filmmakers is that their projects will be rejected by the censors.

As David Bandurski put it in his recent New York Times article, “China’s ‘third affliction’ is a self-inflicted malady” that it cannot cure by diktat. “Governments in countries with cultural censorship may no longer fear criticism at the hands of their own country’s cultural work, but they must endure the ridicule of the whole world.” China’s best hope for improving its global image will be to enlist outsiders—storytelling mercenaries, or modern-day de Toquevilles, if you prefer—to shine a light on that nation’s best, brightest, and most universal values. If you’re a Hollywood filmmaker, there is no shame in telling stories that explore the wonders of China’s magnificent 5,000 year old culture. If you can make globally successful films while you’re at it, China and its leaders will thank you.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com.

One Market, Two Systems: A Tale of Two Movie Marketing Plans

By Robert Cain                                                                                                     November 22, 2011

In China there are two ways to create a box office blockbuster. One way is to target a large, hungry audience niche, create a crowd-pleasing film, and execute a clever and effective marketing campaign to put butts in seats. The other way is for the Communist Party to decree in advance that a film shall be a hit, clear competing movies out of the theaters, and then corral filmgoers into attending.

China’s first and second highest grossing domestic (i.e., non-Hollywood) films of 2011 have employed these two divergent approaches to tally up ticket sales. And while box office-by-command can certainly succeed, the more effective strategy, even in China, is to deliver a good old fashioned crowd-pleaser. In David vs. Goliath fashion, a little $1.4 million independent romantic comedy without stars or much of a marketing budget is poised to overtake a big budget, massively marketed, star-studded historical epic that had no less a backer than the Chinese government itself.

How did this happen? A look at the marketing tactics behind these two blockbusters can shed some light on how movie distribution works in China.

Beginning of the Great Marketing Blitz                                                        

Back in May of this year, government officials were preparing to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by readying the launch of their major pet project movie, Beginning of the Great Revival. Revival was a propaganda extravaganza (a “propaganza”?) funded and produced by China’s huge, state-owned studio, China Film Group (CFG).

Directed by CFG’s Chairman Han Sanping, the picture featured no fewer than 172 Chinese movie stars, including such luminaries as Chow Yun-Fat, Andy Lau, Fan Bingbing, Donnie Yen, Daniel Wu, Liu Ye, and mega-director John Woo in a rare acting appearance.  The CCP officials responsible for Revival’s release let it be known that they ‘expected’ it to gross at least 800 million Renminbi, or about US $125 million. This target was more an executive order than a hope or dream.

It should be noted that with such a galaxy of stars, Revival would have likely cost a private film production company something like $100 million to produce. But when the Chinese government asks an actor to perform in a film, he or she is expected to work for little or no compensation. Indeed, according to director Han, the total actors’ payroll amounted to less than the cost of lunch boxes for the crew. Numerous other favors were extracted in mounting the film, so the officially announced budget of 80 million Renminbi ($13 million) understates Revival’s true cost by several orders of magnitude.

But even with all the stars in the Chinese firmament on their side, government officials worried that a looming Hollywood invasion might spoil their party. With the eagerly anticipated Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 scheduled to open in Chinese theaters just a few weeks after Revival’s launch, they anticipated that filmgoers would swiftly abandon Revival’s history lessons for the escapism offered by alien robots and the English wizard boy.

So the CCP did something Hollywood studio chiefs can only dream about: they shut out the competition. Completely.

You will watch this film and you will like it                                                

When Beginning of the Great Revival opened on June 15, it had a near monopoly; the CCP saw to it that the film was running on most of China’s 6,200 movies screens. Transformers and Potter were postponed indefinitely. Not a single one of those screens was to be relinquished to the American films until Revival had reached the requisite number of ticket sales.

Problem was, few wanted to see Revival. Official reviews of the film in the state owned media were glowing, of course, but word on the street and on the internet was terrible. Bloggers passionately savaged the film. On VervCD, a file-sharing site, some 90 percent of commenters rated the film as “trash.”

So the CCP responded by doing what it does best. It censored all the negative reviews and mobilized the population. Ticket buying campaigns were organized; huge numbers of tickets were purchased by party organizations and state-owned companies. In Changchun alone, a city of about 7 million in Manchuria, the municipal government purchased 100,000 tickets for party members to see the film.

And at least some of those tickets were actually used by theater goers to see the propaganda picture. But savvy theater operators, eager to see Revival hit its numbers so that they could hustle the upcoming Hollywood films onto their screens, worked a bit of Chinese ingenuity to help the ‘propaganza’ along. They began selling tickets bearing the name Beginning of the Great Revival, but with the title scratched out and Kung Fu Panda, Fast Five, or Pirates of the Caribbean, written in by hand. This way the party got its ticket sale, the purchaser got to see the film they wanted, and the theater operator got the box office and concession business he needed.

As one wag wrote on China’s version of Twitter, “Even Kung Fu Panda has joined the Communist Party.” The Hollywood studios were clearly being short-changed, but even if they found out there was nothing they could do about it.

All this box office manipulation makes it impossible to say for sure how many people actually saw Beginning of the Great Revival or how much it truly earned. The officially reported final box office number—$62 million—fell far short of the party’s stated goal, and was mildly embarrassing. Still, Revival remained China’s top grossing home grown film of 2011 through the summer and into the fall, until a tiny upstart came out of nowhere to try and knock it off its perch.

Crazy Little Thing Called ‘Love’                                                                  

When it rolled into theaters on November 8th, Love is Not Blind appeared to have little going for it. With a paltry budget of just 8.9 million RMB (US $1.4 million), a cast that, while recognizable, had little if any marquee value, and a director whose last film, 2007’s The Matrimony, had barely made a ripple at the box office, the film seemed destined for a short and uneventful life in theaters. On top of its other shortcomings, Love is Not Blind’s genre, romantic comedy, was widely viewed as box office poison in China: up until that point the six rom-coms released in 2011 had averaged just $4 million in ticket sales.

Furthermore, the competition that week was fierce, with one Hollywood special effects driven crowd pleaser, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, already dominating the box office, and two more, Real Steel and Immortals, set to open against Love. This time there would be no government intervention, no state-sponsored publicity blitz, no legions of party members buying tickets for the cause. The little $1.4 million picture would go it alone against a combined $350 million worth of Hollywood firepower.

But for all its disadvantages, Love is Not Blind was able to do something none of the Hollywood films could. Something that Revival had failed to do. It targeted a specific Chinese demographic—singles in the 27 to 35 year old cohort—with a contemporary social issue—the ticking marriage clock—and delivered a charming, funny film with a clever and innovative marketing campaign.

Love’s producing and marketing team built the film especially around single, educated women who are under pressure to marry.  By the age of 27 almost every unmarried, educated Chinese woman falls into this category. The film’s protagonist, Xiaoxian, is a 27 year old “shengnu,” or “leftover woman,” whose marriage plans were heartbreakingly shattered when she discovered that her boyfriend of 7 years was seeing another woman on the side.

Without much cash to spend on advertising, the Love team turned to social media, leveraging the popularity of the online novel that was the basis for the film to foster dialogue and a community around the topics of breakups and marriage. Singles, and women especially, were encouraged on sites like Sina Weibo to chat and tweet and upload videos about their own breakup experiences.

The topic resonated beautifully with a very large audience. In the days leading up to the film’s release, some 6.6 million tweets were recorded on Sina Weibo, and on Baidu, China’s version of Google, the film’s Chinese title 失恋33天 (“33 Lovelorn Days”) set records for the most searches ever for a movie.

Love’s release was cleverly timed to coincide with “Singles Day,” an unofficial Chinese holiday that originated in the 1990s and which takes place every November 11th.  On this day single people get together to celebrate, and those who wish to change their relationship status attend blind date parties in hopes of finding that special someone. This year the holiday had special significance since it fell on 11-11-11, which, turned out to be a very popular day for movie-going.

Popular especially for Love, as it turned out. In its opening weekend Love is not Blind out-grossed the combined revenue of Real Steel, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Immortals, collecting nearly $29 million versus a combined total of $18.5 million for the three Hollywood blockbusters. In its second week it retained the number one spot at the box office against those three films and a newcomer from Steven Spielberg: The Adventures of TintinLove out-paced Tintin by a wide margin, $14 million to $9 million.

Most significantly, the tiny film drubbed Beginning of the Great Revival’s opening numbers: in its first week Love grossed over 50 percent more than Revival’s $18 million first week total. And even without the advantage of China’s vast Communist party machinery behind it, Love is Not Blind just might out-do Revival’s final $62 million tally.

Women hold up half the sky                                                                               As an old Chinese proverb favored by Chairman Mao Zedong says, “women hold up half the sky.” And with its success Love is Not Blind has proved that when the right film is marketed in the right manner, women can hold up more than half the box office.

Love is Not Blind‘s success holds three key lessons for distributors and promoters of films in China. First, the market there is changing quickly, and the conventional wisdom regarding what types of films work or don’t work in China is almost always wrong. Second, women are dramatically under-served by both local and Hollywood offerings, and tremendous opportunity exists to serve this audience with good, properly marketed pictures. And finally, you can try to coerce or browbeat people into seeing your film, but the best way to reach moviegoers is to appeal to their minds and hearts.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com.