Lights, Camera, Action! The Birth of ‘Chinewood’

Lights, Camera, Action! The Birth of ‘Chinewood’

The UK and China have agreed a film treaty

Many people will be familiar with the highly acclaimed 2004 film House of Flying Daggers. The visually stunning motion picture took the world by storm and turned the attention of many film lovers East with the promise of poignantly simple storylines held together by rich, breath-taking cinematography.

Those who did take a peek at what Chinese cinema has to offer will have discovered a rich tradition of filmmaking that includes among its fans noted directors Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.

Now, the Chinese film industry has entered into an historic accord with British Cinema that will give UK filmmakers access to what is predicted to be the biggest cinema market within the next 10 years.

Currently, a strict quota system in China means no more than 34 non-domestic titles can be shown in the country each year. However, the landmark co-production film treaty will allow Sino-British co-productions to sidestep this rule.

The deal, brokered by the British Film Institute (BFI), will also give qualifying co-productions access to sources of finance from the two national governments, such as the UK’s Film Tax Relief and the BFI Film Fund.

Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the move, saying: “This is a significant step forward for the British film industry, opening the door to a market that is building seven cinema screens a day.

“People have started calling it Chollywood, but really it’s Chinewood – British films linking up with Chinese partners to access the second highest box office audience in the world.”

The importance of China to global cinema revenue cannot be overstated. The country’s box office audience is worth a massive £1.65 billion, second only to the United States. By 2017 this is predicted to grow to £3.5 billion. Its own film production is also snowballing, growing from 558 titles in 2011 to 745 the following year.

China’s box office audience is the second largest in the world, worth £1.65 billion and forecast to grow to £3.5 billion by 2017.

Most of the mainland-produced films are made in Mandarin. However, many of these films are dubbed into Cantonese when exported to Hong Kong for theatrical runs.

This is not the first film treaty that Britain has entered into. The country has similar deals across the globe, resulting in films such as Dredd 3D (UK/South Africa), Rush (UK/Germany) and Le Weekend (UK/France).

Ivan Dunleavy, chief executive of Pinewood, said: “This agreement on co-production is a significant step forward. It will provide access for British and Chinese filmmakers to produce films for the global audience.”

The value of UK film production is not to be sniffed at either, coming in at an average of more than £1 billion a year, while UK film exports total £1.7 billion annually. This figure is an increase of 121% on 1995 levels.

BFI chief executive Amanda Nevill said: “China is a really important and dynamic growth opportunity for film. The speed of growth in terms of cinema roll-out alone is quite staggering and offers huge opportunities to those working in film in China and the UK.

“And this treaty, the result of nearly a decade of work, will open up this new valuable market. We want to put real energy behind this landmark treaty and will be working in close partnership with the Chinese film authorities and all major creative players to put on the biggest ever exchange programme celebrating Chinese and UK film next year.”

Written by Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf is Head of Digital at TranslateMedia. He has an interest in how technology can help businesses achieve their marketing objectives. He's been working in digital marketing and web development since 2001 across a wide range of industries and clients.

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