Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Founding of a Republic 2009's Biggest Grossing Chinese Film

The Founding of a Republic (建国大业, pinyin: Jiàn Guό Dàyè), the historical drama about the Communist Party's ascendancy to party on the Chinese mainland, was the biggest grossing domestic film in 2009. Attracted by the all-star cast audiences turned up in huge numbers to see the film, produced as part of the country's celebrations to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. Its box office earnings of 400 million yuan (just under US$60 million) in fact gave it the highest box office takings of any Chinese film ever.

The second most profitable Chinese film last year was Bodyguards and Assassins (十月围城, pinyin: Shí Yuè Wéi Chéng), an action film set in 1905 in colonial Hong Kong. The story is about a plot by the Empress Dowager to kill the revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen, and focuses on the motley group hired as Sun Yat-sen's bodyguards for his impending visit to Hong Kong. It too boasts an impressive cast of big names including Donnie Yen, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Nicholas Tse, Fan Bingbing, Leon Lai and even ex-NBA basketballer Mengke Bateer. Despite being released near the end of the year the film has already earned over 280 million yuan (US$41 million) at the box office.

Number three on the highest box office revenue list in 2009 was The Message (风声, pinyin: Fēngshēng), a spy thriller set during the Japanese Occupation. The film stars Zhou Xun and Li Bingbing, and the latter has already picked up one major Best Actress award (at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards). It has earned over 200 million yuan (US$29 million) in ticket sales since its release in October.

Overall it was a record-breaking year for the domestic film industry, with a total of 12 domestic films grossing over 100 million yuan each, according to the State Adminstration of Radio, Film and Television. Chinese-produced films accounted for 57 percent of all box office takings on the mainland in 2009. It seems that everything is booming in China, including the film industry. Total box office revenue was a record 6.2 billion yuan, up 43 percent on 2008 figures, and the annual growth rate has averaged 30 percent over the last six years.

Despite the impressive showing of the domestic films, two Hollywood blockbusters - the disaster movie 2012 and Transformers 2 - were the number one and two movies at the Chinese box office. 2012 grossed 460 million yuan (another box office record broken) and the Transformers sequel 430 million yuan.

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