Chan encouraged by industry pace in China

Says first billion-yuan film will come within 10 years

HONG KONG -- Jackie Chan on Monday predicted that China's film industry will produce its first billion yuan ($146 million)-grossing film in the next 10 years.

"I see the Chinese film industry doing better and better," the Hong Kong native told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that he believes a 600 million yuan-grosser is just five years away.

"This is the direction the industry is going," he said, citing director Feng Xiaogang's romantic comedy "If You Are the One," which has earned 300 million yuan ($43.9 million) since mid-December.

Chan's prediction comes just weeks after his appointment as a vice chairman of the China Film Assn. in Beijing, which welcomed Hong Kong filmmakers for the first time in December.

The CFA, is the Communist Party-backed organizer of China's version of the Academy Awards -- the annual Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival.

Chan cited China's population of 1.3 billion as its primary advantage in hitting new boxoffice highs.

"Even if we halve that four times, we still get 75 million people. The number of moviegoers in the U.S. is only about 50 million," Chan said, noting that China added more than 800 new screens in 2008.

He also touted a new generation of film lovers that is opting for the big-screen experience rather than pirated DVDs.

"Through our campaigning and government promotions in the past few years, the new generation of young people goes to cinemas to see movies," said Chan, who has acted in numerous anti-piracy advertisements for the Chinese market.

Another key CFA priority is the promotion of Chinese films overseas, an area in which Chan has plenty of experience.

"I don't have to force myself to make a film with Chinese elements and Chinese investments that (rely on) appealing to the U.S. or foreign market. I've done that before but failed," said Chan, citing 2003's "The Medallion," which, he said, cast American actors to appeal to the U.S. market but "didn't do well at all."

"Whereas, 'Rumble in the Bronx,' which I starred in with a Chinese cast, did much better at the American boxoffice," said Chan, adding, "So now I only want to make films in my own way."

Chan said that he expects Hollywood studios to increasingly seek out Chinese investors and develop more films with Chinese elements, pointing to Overbrook's plan to remake "The Karate Kid" in China.

"Many studios have come here looking for the chance to work with us, to use the best resources we can offer, such as production personnel and locations that cost half (the price) of places we considered cost-effective before, like Prague," Chan said. "The filmmaking infrastructure in China has matured."

Chan is joined in the CFA leadership by fellow Hong Kongers Andy Lau, the star of "Protege" and directors Peter Chan ("The Warlords") and Gordon Chan ("Painted Skin").