The art medium of cinema was launched in China after the initial concept. The first films were shown in China, Shanghai in 1896. The Lumiere brothers created the movies and presented them in China less than a year after the premiere in Paris. Nowadays, China has a highly developed movie industry. This paper will discuss the development of Chinese movies.
Before the appearance of the first movie, the audience has enjoyed various performances and shows conducted in teahouses. The performances represented shadow puppet shows and had acrobatic elements, which were accompanied by the tea ceremony. Later, the movies have joined the list of performances. In fact, The Battle of Dingjunshan is the first Chinese film. The movie was shot in 1905 and represented a simple record of Beijing opera. The film marked the beginning of the film industry in China and presented an example for all the first Chinese movies. As a result, Chinese films have borrowed a lot from musical theater. The form and rhythm of the play of the actors have influenced the development of early Chinese movies. Actually, the films have borrowed such items as “long static poses with the eyes fixed on a target outside the ‘stage’” (Koivula, 2016). The industry struggled due to the conquests, wars, and censorship at the time when huge sums of money were invested. The distribution of the largest movie among the people in the world made a successful business out of the Chinese film industry. Actually, the first feature of Chinese film was created in Shanghai in 1913. The movie was entitled The Difficult Couple and was directed by Zhang Shichuan. This film is important for the history of the development of Chinese movies, as it is identified to be “the uncontested founding father of Chinese film-making and the man behind most of the earliest Chinese film classics” (Koivula, 2016).
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In fact, the creation of domestic films begun in Shanghai in the 1910s. At that time, Shanghai represented the bulwark of the Far East. In 1921, the first full-length movie Yan Ruisheng appeared. The director Man-Ching Kwan created a documentary drama, which was based on real events. The movie has set a good example for other movies.
In the 1900s, Shanghai became the center of a Chinese movie. In fact, Shanghai was known as the Paris of the East; the city was associated with the frivolous and free way of thinking intertwined with modern ideologies. Thus, such thinking attracted Chinese writers based on European, Russian and American values. The city represented the arena for political movements and the development of different forms of art. In fact, modern theater, literature, and film were developed in Shanghai. At that time, China needed to expand and upgrade art, as people needed new and interesting entertainment. Actually, the development of the movie industry contributed to solving those problems. Thanks to the American studios, all the new Hollywood movies appeared on the screens of Shanghai soon after their premier; Shanghai had theaters and networks that attracted new movies to the city. The Chinese movie industry has developed rapidly along with American cinema. Thus, by 1927 China had 181 grand film companies, 151 of which were in Shanghai. In 1922, Zhang Shichuan and Zheng Zhengqiu founded the first studio in Shanghai that was known as Mingxing or Star Studios. The company has created more than a hundred movies.
In fact, the period from 1920 and until the beginning of 1930 was characterized by the great prosperity of Chinese cinema. Thus, China became known as the Hollywood of the East. The audience easily perceived the themes of the movies; various genres aimed at entertaining the audience. Actually, huge attention was paid to the drama, the launch of the martial arts and fantasy, where immortal heroes and monsters represented the main characters.
In the 1930s, Chinese cinema experienced a change and great success. In 1931, the first sound film appeared that resulted in the incredible success of the cinematography industry. Such a development of the cinematography has resulted in infamous movie stars, who have become the idols of millions. The actors became so popular that their life on the screen and their personal life united. Moreover, the movie stars represented the center of discussions and the topics of articles and news. The popularity of the actors was similar to the popularity of modern movie stars.
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Actually, cinema was exquisite entertainment for the public. Moreover, Chinese filmmakers were able to learn new techniques, as they had access to American films. The famous movies of that period were Sun Yu’s The Big Road (1935), Wu Yonggang’s The Goddess (1934) and Cheng Bugao’s Spring Silkworms (1933). After Japan has captured Shanghai, the movie industry has suffered greatly. Despite the invasion, the film production did not stop its operations. At that time, the films were focused on the topics connected to politics and nationalism. The proponents of the idea believed that the purpose of the movies was not only entertainment. In fact, movies should aim at educating humanity. In 1930, Shanghai was occupied and it became impossible to shoot films. Thus, the Chinese industry moved to Hong – Kong, where it continued to flourish. During that time, the film industry had a huge impact on Chinese culture. After 1945, the movie industry began to grow rapidly and the Lianhua production group renewed its operations. The movies of those years were focused on the disappointment with Chiang Kai-shek and the war. That period involved the production of the following movies: Crows and Sparrows (1949), Myriads of Lights (1948) and San Mao (1949). Actually, the most popular and important movie is The Spring River Flows East (1947). The movie describes the life of the Chinese people during the occupation. The Spring River Flows East was a three-hour movie that was popular at that time. The movie company Wenhua has played an important role in the film industry. Fei Mu created the film, Springtime in a Small Town or Spring in a Small Town (1948), during that period. In fact, the movie is considered to be the best and most influential film of all time. In 1949, the communists believed that cinema is the form of art and propaganda. The number of spectators has grown rapidly “from 47 million in 1949 to 4.15 billion in 1959” (“The History of Chinese Film,” 2011). Hundreds of documentaries and newsreels were made for several years. Nevertheless, Chinese cinema did not stop its operations and continued to study the industry of other countries. Thus, the filmmakers went to Moscow in order to study their style and methods of cinematography. The Beijing Film Academy was opened in 1956. Actually, the first wide-screen Chinese film was made after the four years since the inception of the academy. The animated films were very popular, as they aimed at entertaining and educating the audience. Various forms of art such as shadow plays, puppetry, and traditional paintings were used in filmmaking. Actually, the weakening of censorship promoted the spread of Chinese films in India. Xie Jin produced The Red Detachment of Women (1961) and Two-Stage Sisters (1965) during that period.
In fact, the Cultural Revolution has greatly influenced the development of the cinema. The production of films and their premiers were strictly limited. Almost all the films were banned and only eight movies were produced during that time. The Red Detachment of Women represented the example of the movie produced during the Cultural Revolution. Actually, the film was a ballet version of the revolutionary opera. The films of that period had lively roles and plot. However, their quality was much lower than the quality of the moves of the 1950s, as they “had a severe shortage and were limited by a lack of individual artistic character as well as different photographic style. Artistic rules were usually neglected” (Lixiao, 2004). However, the cinematography began to revive after the revolution. Many interesting themes became available to the audience. In 1953, the Shanghai studio created the first Chinese color animated film. The Studio “first set the goals and then put together a project team under the rubric of “color film experiments” (Zhang, 2012). Actually, the team consisted of Wan Chaochen and his three brothers. These people are considered to be the fathers of Chinese animation. In 1959, China owned a 3D film that became a big project. Additionally, foreign films were popular during that period. Almost all foreign films came from socialist countries. Therefore, the main topic was devoted to the revolution. Various people described Chinese cinema of that period in the following way: “Romanian movies are romantic; Korean – tragic; Albanian – confusing; Vietnamese – war-themed; and Chinese but news digests” (Chinese movies: The “expressway” of development, 2011). Nevertheless, the movies were popular, as television and the internet did not exist at that time.
The movies of the so-called fifth-generation spread the fame of Chinese film to other foreign countries. Actually, Chinese movies represented favorite movies of the audience of the home cinema. Later, Chinese filmmakers began to change the style of their work. Thus, they “began to reject traditional techniques in favor of more liberal, free-thinking styles of film making” (Tudor, n. d.). The examples of the films of that period are Yellow Earth (1984), Raise the Red Lantern (1991) and Farewell My Concubine (1993). In fact, the film market rapidly increased both in number and in genres. In 1982, China produced the film Shaolin, which became very popular abroad and glorified Chinese kung fu around the globe. Moreover, Red Sorghum directed by Zhang Yimou in 1988 represented the first Chinese film, which won an award at the international movie competition. Since that time, Chinese films have become even more popular in the U.S. and the U.K. Despite the growth and popularity of Chinese films, the government tightened its control over the production of films and strictly controlled the display of all the movies. Such renowned directors as Wu Ziniu, Zhang Yimou, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Huang Jianxin, and He Ping characterized that period.
In the 1990s, Chinese films met wide acceptance and prosperity. Actually, the government allowed the display of foreign films. At that time, more and more Chinese movies began to win at film festivals and began to receive various international awards. The examples of the films of that time included Ju Dou (1990) and To Live (1994) by Zhang Yimou, Blush (1994) by Li Shaohong, Farewell My Concubine (1993) by Chen Kaige, and Red Firecracker Green Firecracker (1993) by He Ping. The films of that period were cheap because they used the hand cameras and the ambient sound. Actually, the filmmakers had an individualistic anti-romantic point of view and paid more attention to urban life.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon achieved incredible success in the West in 1999. However, some people ignored those films because they believed that that approach pandered to the tastes of Westerns. Despite this fact, the distribution of Chinese films in the West contributed to the popularity of Chinese cinema in general, and to the popularity of the movies, which were unknown to the people of the west. Moreover, the film Hero of 2002 experienced great success in Asia and had been winning first place in ticket sales in the US for two weeks.
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Such progress of cinematography represents the boundary between cinema movies on the mainland and the international cinema of the Chinese. In fact, the actors from other regions were often invited to the shooting of the movie, while the funding came from abroad. “Hong Kong film talents and professionals have managed to make their names known in both Eastern and Western movie market” (“Film Entertainment Industry in Hong Kong,” 2016). Based on these facts, the Chinese film confidently moved towards international recognition.
Currently, Chinese movies make up 50% of Chinese movies and foreign films. Actually, common contemporary film genres are comedy, fantasy, science, animation, and martial arts. The development of computers also positively influenced the quality of films. Thus, the filmmakers shoot more interesting stories and plots; moreover, films contain scenes that are more beautiful. Moreover, each season presented several 3D movies.
Chinese films are becoming increasingly popular among the population. The revenues from ticket sales grew ten times during the last years. Thus, “in 2010, the Chinese box office revenue exceeded 10 billion yuan for the first time, an increase of 63.9% over 2009” (“Chinese Movies,” 2011). Actually, Chinese films have developed very quickly. Nevertheless, the number of cinema viewers has increased slowly. The reason for such a situation is the opinion of the people about an extremely high price for the tickets. In comparison to previous years, the ticket price has increased a hundred times, even though the growth of incomes has not been large. Despite the high price of the tickets, many films were so popular that the tickets were very difficult to get. China was the second-biggest seller of the tickets in the world after the US. Moreover, China had the potential to have the largest audience in the world.
In fact, the film industry is the only area that does not suffer from changes in the stock markets. In February of 2015, the revenue from ticket sales was the largest in the world, leaving America and Canada behind. Actually, Hollywood considers China to be a partner, as the country has Chinese movie studios for blockbuster releases available for both the Americans and the Chinese. Thus, the USA has a strong competitor in the world of cinema.
Generally, China has 16 studios and 32 distribution companies. A kingdom called Hengdian World Studios is situated in the mountains of China. Actually, it is the largest film plot in the world with 7000 acres. The importance of Hengdian World Studios is the fact that there are palaces for all the ages and villages of each area. The most important Chinese films were released there over the past few years. Thus, this place is a great achievement, as the structures “aren’t flimsy facades but full-scale brick and mortar replicas of China’s imperial past” (Williams, 2016). The owner of the kingdom is a former farmer, who has been building this town for five years. In fact, Shanghai Film Studio is one of the largest and one of the oldest in China. The studio is known for its meticulous attitude to the script of the film: if the officials did not like the script, then this film is not removed. Now, the studio is poorly funded; thus, the owners begin to seek support in the US and abroad.
Actually, the movie business is growing rapidly. Two dozens of theaters open every day in comparison to 2012 when only three screens were built every day. The opening of the movie screens and the building of cinemas promote the development of the industry. Actually, the addition of the screens increased the box office. Moreover, the report says, “China is expected to have 53,000 screens by 2017” (“China’s Film Industry,” 2016). Actually, the number of screens is two times more than in China has now.
Along with Chinese movie studios, there are movie moguls, including Dennis Wang. The movie industry helps Wang to become a billionaire; now, he is the head of the Huayi Bros, one of the biggest studios in the country. Actually, Hollywood studio has become the property of the Chinese company this year. The Dalian Wanda Group is the first Chinese company, which bought a big studio in the USA. Additionally, it is the most expensive purchase of Wanda that comes from abroad. In fact, Wanda has become the largest cinema operator in the world after purchasing AMC Entertainment Holdings in 2012. Other filmmakers cooperate with US companies in order to create films for the global market.
What is important, the film industry is developing not only in big cities but also in small towns, as they become very important to the cinema. Movie stars are invited for the promotional appearances not only in Shanghai and Beijing but also in more than 20 small cities. Moreover, the stars of the cinema represent the idols of millions of people now. Li Bingbing, for example, is Chinese Angelina Jolie, as she is famous and well – known in the country.
Actually, Chinese audiences have high demands concerning films due to two reasons. The first reason is a great number of different films and their number is growing steadily. Second, the Chinese film not only aims at entertaining but they also play an important role in personal lives. People say that a movie is similar to the song, as it keeps a history of the people. In comparison to Western movies, Chinese movies have more fight scenes and fewer sex scenes. Despite this fact, many Chinese people consider American films to be less severe than the films removed in their country. Moreover, the films had a significant impact on the social and cultural side of life. China filmmaker Jia Zhang said, “in the early eighties, many directors made films about women’s rights – about their confinement, their unhappy marriages – and, through these films, Chinese people realized women must be respected and treated equally” (Hays, 2012). Such an attitude is a merit of cinematography.
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Despite the rapid and successful development of Chinese movies, it still has some problems. In China, a significant number of Chinese films is shot illegally due to the presence of underground film industry. In fact, Such films vary in quality; they have mostly released abroad and are considered to be contraband. If the contraband film-projects is identified, the filmmaker will pay a large fine. Moreover, the career of certain directors stopped at the request of the government.
A large percentage of films sold in China represent the pirated versions. Actually, the discs are cheap and widely available to the public. The film industry spends billions on the production of pirated discs. The discs are sold at stations, basements and intersections. Some of the enterprises are deceiving the customers by selling the pirated version at the price of the licensed disc. People often use pirated versions on the internet. In fact, Hollywood considers the permission of the pirated video to be unfair and proposes the ban of the film import. The pirated versions of the movies have a negative impact on the development of Chinese cinema. Thus, the Hong Kong film industry suffered huge losses, as hundreds of video stores and movie theaters were closed. Actually, China is characterized by very fierce competition among the vendors because of low prices for pirated versions. Sometimes, the buyers prefer a copy, as the illegal store has a greater variety of choices than a legal one has.
To conclude, more than 100 years ago, the Chinese film industry started its development. During that period, the cinematography has achieved considerable success and national recognition. Chinese films joined the list of favorite movies of international fans. Moreover, a lot of talented film stars and directors have appeared. Chinese movie studios are among the largest in the world. Additionally, a Hengdian World Studios is a dream of each country. In fact, the sale of tickets is impressive. Certainly, the development of technology has improved the sphere of cinematography. The minor problems cannot affect the huge success of the movie industry.