Chinese Film Industry Facing "Bloodbath," Producer Andre Morgan Says

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Andre Morgan

"There will be a lot of money written off, because there were so many movies made that made no economic sense," says Andre Morgan.

The Chinese film industry is facing a "bloodbath" after a glut of "dumb money" led to too many movies being made, producer Andre Morgan (The Cannonball Run; Way of the DragonWalker, Texas Ranger) said at the Tokyo film festival’s TIFFCOM market on Thursday.

In what was dubbed a Master-Class Seminar by a pioneer of developing relationships between the U.S. and Chinese film industries, Morgan shared his take on the state of the business in the second-largest box-office market in the world. 

The founder of production company Ruddy Morgan Organization, the producer started his work with China when he assisted on the production of Bruce Lee’s Way of the Dragon (1972) and Enter the Dragon (1973). He has also worked with the likes of Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Andy Lau and director John Woo. For the past 13 years, he has been the co-chairman of the Chinese-American Film Festival.

"China has gone through phenomenal growth," including a couple of "phenomenal years" where local hits, such as Lost in Thailand, started breaking Chinese records, which meant that "the Chinese public started to discover there was quality product being made in China," Morgan said. "It wasn't to the exclusion of Hollywood, but it was parallel to what Hollywood was doing."

This gave "courage" to people in China to invest more money in homegrown product, he added. But "like everything in China — they kind of feast or famish — they kind of overshot the market," he argued. "And so now we have a situation where an awful lot of dumb money went into the industry and overinflated the price of the actors,” some of whom, such as Fan Bingbing, have been facing tax and financial investigations.

"The government has stepped in to clean [this] up," Morgan said. Stars and others have basically been given until Dec. 31 "to clean up their act," but "come January, it will be open season on those that haven’t paid their taxes." He said the same goes for production companies and others in the industry.

"I think, personally, next year will be a bloodbath," Morgan predicted. "There will be a lot of money written off, because there were so many movies made that made no economic sense." Too often producers tried to beat Hollywood at its game by making effects movies while ignoring the need for a good script or a story consumers actually want to see.

He also said: "China right now is suffering from a glut of money," meaning there will have to be a phase of "constriction," which will affect "the number of production companies" and the amount of money spent. 

That likely means "a painful coming 18 months," but after that there will be a "leaner, more vibrant" industry in China.

The expanding entertainment industry ties between Japan and China have been a key focus of this year’s TIFFCOM, which is wrapping on Thursday. 

Morgan emphasized in his session that a co-production treaty signed by China and Japan this year will open up opportunities for Japanese entertainment industry professionals in China.