Chinese Cinemagoers Keen on Film Ratings System

A new survey shows that more than 90 percent of Chinese audiences support a movie classification system.

A new survey shows that Chinese audiences are critical of domestically produced movies, while more than 90 percent of Chinese filmgoers support a ratings or film classification system.

As it stands, only films deemed suitable for all ages are released in China, and part of the rigorous censorship process is aimed at supporting this notion, and the Film Bureau makes the necessary cuts. However, many in the local business believe that if there were a reliable ratings system, it would allow more leeway on the censorship front, giving filmmakers more scope to make better movies.

Regarding the ongoing discussion regarding establishing a movie ratings system in China, the survey reveals that more than 90 percent of moviegoers “support” or “accept” a rating system that works for China.

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The findings are taken from the 2012-2013 China Moviegoer Survey Report by research group Entgroup. The survey focused on Mainland China and included 6,027 people who have seen at least one movie in the past year. It was taken by Entgroup in association with iResearch in the first half of the year.

In May of this year, the China Consumers Association (CCA) called for a film rating system to protect minors from inappropriate scenes. Last year, film director Xie Fei published an open letter online calling for a motion picture rating system, which he said was essential to building a vibrant film industry and cultural scene.

"To move from the current administrative review system to a rating system that allows for a self-governed and self-disciplined film industry, bound by legal restrictions and administrative supervision," Xie wrote in the letter, picked up by the South China Morning Post. He said the current system was "outdated".

Stephen Chow's film Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, was a huge hit in China this year, earning about one billion yuan ($161 million), but some of the more graphic scenes in the movie, such as humans being roasted alive and people being eaten by river demons, angered some parents.

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Total 2012 box office revenue in China was $2.78 billion (17 billion yuan), a 30 percent increase over the previous year. Broken down by region, the rich southern province of Guangdong dominated box office receipts, taking in 16 percent, followed by Beijing, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai.

Chinese moviegoers in the report are critical of domestic movies, saying that they believed local films lacked creativity and innovation in their subject matter and themes, had lower production values, especially in VFX, and were repetitive.

Between January and June of this year, domestic films outperformed imported ones by 65 percent in China. By contrast, last year's foreign films -- principally those from Hollywood -- brought in twice the amount of revenue as domestic ones.

The report has some useful demographic profile notes. It reveals, for example, what a young and highly educated person the Chinese filmgoer is. The majority of Chinese moviegoers in 2012 were young people between the ages of 25 and 35, and 88.8 percent have received a college education or higher.

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When they go to the movies, Chinese filmgoers are prepared to buy peripheral products and use the concessions, but they say the items on sale lack variety and are expensive.

Some 60 percent of respondents said they were willing to purchase peripheral products priced between $8.15 and $32.60 (50 and 200 yuan).

More than 70 percent of respondents watch movies on their mobile phones/tablets at different times, but the main reason people go to the theaters in China is for the large screens, clear pictures, optimal sound quality and better viewing experiences. When they go, they go with the family, first and foremost, followed by partners. The main reasons to go to the movies, the study says, are to relax, spend time with family and simply to pass the time.

Chinese filmgoers love action movies and comedies, as well as sci-fi, war and disaster movies. Comedies and action movies are particularly important on the Chinese New Year, summer and National Day holidays.