Director Wang Xiaoshuai Wants More Theater Space for Quality Movies in China

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Wang bemoans the low number of screenings for his latest movie, 'Red Amnesia.'

Chinese auteur Wang Xiaoshuai, best known for socially aware works that explore a changing China, such as the Berlin Silver Bear-winning Beijing Bicycle, has made a clarion call for more room for art house movies in China's booming film market.

Wang said the low number of screenings, at obscure hours, for his latest movie Red Amnesia had blighted its box-office performance, and he called on Chinese filmgoers to support quality movies as well as the 3D blockbuster mass fare that fills the country's growing ranks of multiplexes.

Wang and the producers had made major efforts with distribution and marketing for Red Amnesia, and the booming market means that art house movies can pick up healthy revenues – Zhang Yimou's Coming Home made nearly $50 million in box office last year.

"We all know, the Chinese market is big and we are confident the market will have the space for this film. But we were very surprised and shocked about the screenings. Screenings were either in the early morning or late at night. I felt that the market was going backwards instead of forward," he told THR.

Wang took to the social media platform Weibo to issue a manifesto saying he believed he had made a great movie but he was hamstrung by the tiny number of screenings.

The film was given a rating of 8.1 out of 10 on the Chinese film site, only slightly lower than Furious 7, now China's highest-grossing movie of all time.

Red Amnesia only screened on 1.3 percent of the country's 23,600 screens on its opening day and earned around $130,000 at the box office.

Wang insisted that the movie had high occupancy rates at the screening times, which indicated there was more demand than the screenings suggested.

Last year, Red Amnesia was invited to the Busan International Film Festival and it also proved popular at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Wang will be heading this year's edition of the Asian Film Academy this fall, BIFF organizers said late last month.

The theater chain Wanda, which also owns AMC in North America, had arranged a fresh round of screenings; Wang said he hoped the movie would prove a success.

"People should watch more quality films. This film is different from other films showing during the May holiday break.  It should have its market space," Wang said.