The Korean Film Council and the Beijing Film Festival

The Hollywood Reporter this week, focuses on the Beijing Film Festival and the political situation involving the Korean Film Council, in which Korean film screenings have been cancelled. The tension allegedly evolved from the issue surrounding South Korean’s deployment of US defense system THAAD. What this ultimately means for the festival and for Korean films in the Chinese market at this time is unclear, however, there is room for speculation.

A senior VP at one of the Korean studios, states the following:

“The Beijing Festival is a very young event, with programmers constantly changing and rapports with international companies still being forged….We will have to see how the Shanghai International Film Festival will deal with Korean films. It will be a better barometer of the political situation, since it is a much more seasoned event with stronger ties with Korean companies.”

Waiting for the Shanghai festival makes sense, considering that the city itself in general, is more a “world city” than Beijing, and as a result, is more likely to have stronger business relations with foreign partners like Korea. Hopefully, the behavior of the Beijing festival is an isolated one. Due to it being China’s capital city it is logical to suspect that any political controversy would stem from government issues and affect large events like film festivals which bring in revenue, publicity, and tourism. If the ban continues with Shanghai, than fears of the situation being steeped in politics have been realized.

Jung Soo-jin, a Showbox representative, remains optimistic about the future of Korean films in Chinese markets despite the tension.

“We are continuing to work hard on developing our projects, which, unrelated to the diplomatic situation between South Korea and China, always take a long time. We are hoping they will bear fruit in the not-too-distant future — though given, of course, that the political situation will become better”

She does however, make an excellent point regarding audiences, which are the lifeblood of films:

“The worst case scenario would be Chinese audiences turning their backs on Korean content. Even if diplomatic ties smoothen, it would be much more difficult to win back audiences’ hearts.”

Even if piracy becomes an option, like Soo-jin suggests, while the films will be seen, it will be still be promoting illegal activity, which depending on perspective, is bad for business. That is a discussion for another time. For the moment, all anyone can do, is hope that the situation resolves itself and that Shanghai allows Korean films to be seen.

Logan and the R-Rated Movie, What the Box Office Tells Us

The Hollywood Reporter issued the weekend box office report this morning with good news for Fox: Logan, the final installment of the “Wolverine” franchise and the last Hugh Jackman led X-Men film, grossing a grand total of $85.3 million at the weekend box office, with a global turnout of $237.8 million (an additional $152.5 million). Pamela McClintock notes:

“Overseas, Logan opened No. 1 in 80 markets and is the third-biggest debut for Fox International behind X-Men: Days of Future Past ($172 million) and Avatar ($164 million). After China, the next biggest market was the U.K. ($11.4 million), followed by South Korea ($8.2 million), Brazil ($8.17 million) and Russia ($7.1 million).”

Continuing what hopes to be a trend thanks to the success of last year’s Deadpool, Fox seems to be telling others that superhero movies do not have to restricted to the PG-13 demographic; that an R-rated film can be profitable if it is made under the right circumstances and has the right elements. The proof of this can be found by looking at the exact opposite spectrum in The Lego Batman Movie, which in its fourth week has a cumulative box office of $148.6 million, its weekend box office for the week giving it $11.7 million according to The Hollywood Reporter.

It should be noted that both Logan and The Lego Batman Movie are superhero films, which brings into question why they are so successful to begin with. Part of the answer, may lay in Deadline’s observation earlier this week:

“The studio {Fox} has truly changed the game on the gravitas of superhero movies by making the characters edgy and rooting them in reality. Some rival studios out there aren’t swallowing this well, because they can’t do this with their superhero properties; more precisely they can’t have their comic book feature adaptations rated R for the sake of their brand or the superheros themselves” (D’Alessandro, updated March 5th).

The superhero genre is a genre in which the fans have immense power and control through audience response; this is because the characters in the films are well-established and, especially in the case of the X-Men which focuses heavily on the outsider trope, easy to relate to. Because of this power that fans possess it makes sense to market to the strongest pool of fans, those who have grown up with the X-Men films (and in some cases comic books, and the 1980’s TV show, but more-so the early 2000 films) who predominately seem to watch R-rated movies if they watch movies at all.

In the coming months, we as an audience may see a shift in the R-rated movie, one that focuses less on gore, violence, and sex, and focuses on the character; or at the very least, presents a framework for the gore, violence and sex to exist instead of existing for the sake of a rating. When that day comes, it will be a day of change in Hollywood, one that may force studios to re-brand their concepts about what an R-rated actually is and if there is one thing to reflect that it is the box office numbers of Logan.

The Chinese Box Office: “The Great Wall”

In the wake of the Oscars, it can sometimes be incredibly easy to get swept up in the mayhem. So, to offer a small reprieve, let’s talk about China, specifically it’s box office and why it matters to film companies.

“After 10 days, Xandar Cage, has earned $134 million in China, more than triple its $44 million North American total”

Why is this the case?  ScreenRant’s Kayleigh Donaldson, while by no means possessing the answer to this question, which is both ideological and on some level layered in economics, makes the point that the Chinese like to see themselves in films. This might explain The Great Wall‘s success:

“Like any nation, Chinese audiences enjoy seeing themselves and their culture on screen”

Contrast The Great Wall to The Mermaid, the current highest grossing film in China, and a different perspective comes to the forefront- the domestic Chinese market. While Hollywood films recently have been doing well in China, in no small part due to Disney with the opening of its Shanghai resort, the international grosses do not come anywhere near China’s domestic films.

“…audiences flock to blockbusters by home-grown talents like Stephen Chow, whose film The Mermaid is the highest grossing film in China, and made half a billion dollars without even having to come to America”

This kind of response is telling, especially for Hollywood. If film producers and studio executives want a film to succeed beyond the US, make sure it is accessible to the Chinese market. Such tactics have saved films like Warcraft and Transformers: Age of Extinction from becoming complete box office bombs, ultimately allowing for the studios to reap some reward and mitigate some of their initial loss in revenue.


How to Save Hollywood

Vanity Fair recently posted an article: “Why Hollywood As We Know It Is Already Over” in which the author, Nick Bilton, makes the point that Hollywood, “in its over-reliance on franchises” has given up on creativity, ceding that aspect of movie-making to the likes of HBO, Netflix, and Amazon, one of which is more known for its cinematic TV shows than films. The question that Bilton pursues is: “Why is this happening?” I however, pursue an equally important question: how can we fix it.

The answer lies almost entirely in  ideology. For years I have argued that Hollywood is more concerned with making profits than it is in producing good films- this article, along with countless testimonies serve as proof- and they have every reason to do this, and it is in no small part due to audience participation, for without audiences no films would ever be produced. Connected with this claim of profit-making then, is audience want. For decades, audiences have flocked to blockbuster films, franchise films, and action/adventure films, often because these are the films that require very little on the part of the audience, presenting little in terms of substance and discussion. This resulted in a trend in the Hollywood landscape, completely changing the business ideology of every major studio, the thinking being that if it was action packed and featured characters that everyone loved it would automatically make money.

The solution to this problem lies on the part of the audience and studios with the understanding that audiences know what they want; they just don’t know it, because what they have been given are sequels, franchises, and blockbusters. If Hollywood wants to remain relevant they have to listen to their audience and make films that matter to them. By making films that mean something to their audiences they guarantee a steady cash flow and a substantial revenue.Hollywood is not a bank, nor it is the US Mint, it is a group of film studios that need to get back to what they do best- make films.