Beijing Film Market | From Trading to Screening, What Will the Film Market Bring to Us?
More and more foreign films have aroused attention in China in the past years, including some with small production costs. In 2017, a total of 70 foreign films without revenue sharing (buy-out films) were introduced in China, such as Dangal with 1.299 billion yuan of box office, Resident Evil: Rising / Resident Evil 6 (1.1 billion yuan), Bad Genius (270 million yuan) and La La Land (247 million yuan). The total box office is more than 5 billion yuan, 10% higher than that in the whole year. The market of buy-out film ushers in a booming period.
More and more buy-out films were screened in the following two years (76 films and 86 films respectively), including Bajrangi Bhaijaan (285 million yuan), Green Book (470 million yuan) and Cafarnaúm (370 million yuan).
The buy-out films with high box office may not be the blockbusters and even the starring is not so familiar to the public, but increasingly more Chinese audience can accept the films of different styles so that such excellent films can be gradually accepted by the market.
The BJIFF themed with “Share the Screen, Shape the Future” has always aimed to find and bring more excellent films to the audience in the past twelve years. We specially interviewed Krystal, Cindy, Anya and Kevin, the filmmakers experienced in international film procurement, hoping to discuss with them about their experience of procuring excellent films in late years, the changes of the international film market, what the film festival and film market can bring to us.
For the audience, the films have more or less influenced their lives. During their long journey of life enjoying films, some foreign films are certainly included. Krystal, who has involved in the industry for 5 years and is now employed in a leading film company, believes that “excellent foreign films can bring very positive impact on the audience, including the knowledge of different cultures and histories in various countries as well as colorful spiritual life. Moreover, these films can also help us shape our personalities to some extent.”
For many practitioners in the film and television industry, the charm of films attracts them to devote to this career with more passion and sentiments. In 2018, Vincent Maraval, founder of Wild Bunch in France, once said in an interview, “Wild Bunch owns a team full of passion for films, most of the staff are also super fans. They could have earned higher salary elsewhere, but what they determined to do is to bring the films to more audience.”
For the film companies engaged in international copyright procurement, they may have more ideals.
"What we're doing now can bring more choices for the audience. The population in China means huge amount of audience. Although Chinese market which tends to be somewhat literary and artistic is hard to compete with the mainstream commercial market in terms of the volume, the taste and curiosity of the audience can be cultivated and expanded. " ——Kevin
"If we share more market to the audience, they will definitely have more opportunities of enjoying films. We hope to provide them with more films which are suitable for their tastes but greatly different from the conventional ones, so that they can expand their knowledge about the films.”——Cindy
A still of Persian Lessons
Apart from the screening in theaters, some least popular films will have other ways to make profits. Anya, who has studied in France for 6 years and is now employed as a manager of international copyright procurement after returning to China, said that the copyright procurement was a long-term business. The duration of a foreign film copyright could be as long as five to ten years in China. Apart from the screening in theaters, the film could also participate in film festivals, be produced as DVD or cooperate with platforms or TV APPs for PVOD or SVOD. Although the profits could not be achieved very soon, there would be many other opportunities since the duration was long enough.
For some good foreign films, the pre-sale contract had been signed although only the script or the cast & crew were just determined. "The film financing system overseas is relatively healthy. Generally speaking, the pre-sales in the global market can account for 30% of the total investment. That’s a common sense, so they depend on the international market very much." Cindy said in the interview.
As far as we know, many overseas films were usually presold in the world market to ensure enough funds for the film production before 2020. Generally speaking, many domestic companies also chose to enter the film procurement process at early stage due to the fierce market competition. Meanwhile, the fast-growing film market in China and the enhanced purchasing power at that time also greatly attracted the attention of the international market.
“Without competition, the market would have already been terminated.”
Sometimes we can judge the prosperity of an industry according to the intensity of industrial competition. Judging from the major international film markets in the past three years, the number of Chinese companies for film procurement has greatly reduced. Kevin, who is now employed on a video platform as a manager of copyright procurement, told us that “as for the involvement in the international film market, the number of Chinese buyers keeps dropping within two years since 2020. They are less enthusiastic than before and the price of film procurement has also reduced. We are now more intended not to make the decision in a haste until the film has been fully presented. Therefore, the film presales in the past will seldomly occur now.”
Anya also shared with us her story in the Cannes film market this year. "It’s obvious that the number of domestic buyers has greatly reduced to only 10 or 20 companies. When the Cannes restarts the offline event this year, I can still feel the lagging of email communication. The producer of high-quality film usually chooses to talk with the companies in North American and Europe to sell at higher prices and they can hold talks face to face. In comparison, the producer tends to attach less priority to the online conferences.
Anya also expressed her great concerns to us. "The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly reduced the overall attention of the film market, and the audience has correspondingly shrunk a lot. In the end, the films may earn less profit as expected and we may also tend to be more conservative to make choices. We have always believed that the market would be terminated without competition. We are eager to achieve more healthy competitions in the market. For example, if we failed to buy a film in the past, we were still happy after being told the film had been procured by another company. After all, it meant this film could be enjoyed by more people”
The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has greatly shaken the global film industry. The international film market, especially the Cannes, is also trying all means to recover the industry as soon as possible. In 2020, Cannes, one of the top three films festivals in the world, took the initiative to announce the online film market, marking the initiation of online film market. In the following two years, the online market has helped many film companies survive despite many hardships. In 2022, the Cannes declared to restart the offline festival. Some much-anticipated films such as the award winner Decision to Leave have been sold in nearly 200 countries and regions through the Cannes film market.
According to the four filmmakers always shuttling among the major festivals every year, the significance of festivals and markets to films is beyond all doubt.
"The film market can reflect the activity of global film industry and undertake multiple functions as well. The staff involving film sales, publicity, post-production, etc. can be found here to provide more convenience for the companies in need."——Kevin
"The film market is fluid so as to accommodate the buyers and sellers and connect the domestic market to the world. No matter it’s the flow of capitals, the transactions or the cultures, it always plays a healthy, positive and benign role."——Cindy
"The film market resembles to the base color of a film festival. No matter how many awards are given to the films in the competition section or how much attention they have attracted, we will eventually return to the level of actual transactions. Just like the iceberg under the water, it’s the invisible part that supports the whole iceberg to be seen. "——Anya
For the BJIFF and the Beijing Film Market, we are constantly focusing on the changes of ourselves and the international market in the past three years. We hope to explore more possibilities so as to assume more functions and responsibilities. The online exhibitions and market screenings in the Beijing Film Market thus came into being. In 2021, we successfully promoted the film River of Salvation to be distributed overseas and the German film Contra also found the distributor in China. Perhaps we are used to importing films from Cannes, Berlin and other film markets. We are also trying to build a bridge of our own to bring more excellent films and projects to the Chinese market.
We firmly believe in the tenacious vitality of the filmmaker. The BJIFF and Chinese film market will provide more excellent films for the audience in the future. To this end, we will join hands with all the filmmakers with unremitting efforts.