Which UK film performed the best at cinemas in China in 2019?
Bohemian Rhapsody, with a total box-office of 99 million RMB, approximately £10 million (its UK box-office was £53 million).
Although the Middle Kingdom market proves to be very large, with a total box-office revenue of 68 billion RMB (£7.4 billion) last year, foreign film distribution in China continues to be a complex business. The launch of the UK-China Film Collab Project in February 2019 was to set out to investigate the core blockages for more UK films to enter the Chinese market.
The challenges currently face can be summarised as the followings:
1) The global right for big budget UK films is normally owned by US studios. This has created a confusion when it comes to film importation to China which needs to go through a quota system. US studios are under the revenue sharing quota, while UK films (including co-productions) could potentially go under the buy-out quota (any Chinese company can purchase the right). There is therefore an unnecessary competition among studios backed films between the US and the UK for the revenue sharing quota.
2) Smaller UK productions normally rely on sales agents to approach international distributors. Although most agents are knowledgable about the EU and North American market, they are not necessary familiar with the Chinese market. In many occasions, sales agents sell the right to a Chinese company that can not guarantee a theatrical release, neither a VoD distribution. For other occasions, such as film Swimming With Men, which could have the potentials to be released at cinemas, Huanxi Media bought the right for China but only released it exclusively on its VoD streaming platform for subscribers.
3) The Chinese audience is more familiar with the UK’s TV series products rather than films. While most UK films are co-produced with other countries and mostly with the US, the artistic and cultural identity of a UK film is not clear to audiences in China. This is demonstrated by two previous annual surveys that I conducted regarding the receptions of UK films at the Shanghai International Film Festival (2018 & 2019).
In summary, UK films did not do well in China last year, comparing to other non-Hollywood foreign films. The best performing UK film was Bohemian Rhapsody, which generated approximately £10 million box-office. The overall best performing foreign film in China was the rerelease of Spirited Away from Japan, which generated 488 million RMB, approximately £53.5 million (5 times of Bohemian Rhapsody). For another reference, Capernaum, Jury Prize winner at Cannes Film Festival in 2018, grossed its highest worldwide box-office in China with £36 million, over 3 times more than Bohemian Rhapsody’s record…