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China’s nascent art house film sector just got a big boost at the Beijing International Film Festival.
On the second day of the event, five of the country’s most influential movie companies, including Perfect Village Entertainment, Edko Films and state-backed Huaxia Film Distribution, announced a new joint initiative to finance and distribute art house films.
The new alliance, named A.R.T. Project, will see the five partners jointly invest $16 million (RMB100m) in 15 Chinese film projects over the next five years, with an emphasis on high-quality, low-budget projects from emerging local directors. The selected projects will benefit from support including development resources, production financing, producer expertise and marketing services, as well as a guaranteed theatrical release and international festival and sales representation.
The other two partners in the group are production and investment outfit Irresistible Films and leading online ticketing platform Maoyan Media.
“The A.R.T. Project partners all agree that there is nothing more important than nurturing the new generation of Chinese filmmaking talent,” said Edko Films chief and industry legend Bill Kong. “We are up and running at full speed, with three releases confirmed for 2018, and look forward to bringing many exciting new films to audiences in China and beyond over the years to come.”
The venture’s first project will be Li Ruijun’s Walking Past the Future, which premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2017 and is scheduled for Chinese theatrical release on May 17. Later 2018 titles include Teng Congcong’s directorial debut Send Me to the Clouds, starring Yao Chen and Yuan Hong, and Liu Hao’s Poet, starring Song Jia and Zhu Yawen.
During China’s boom in commercial filmmaking production and exhibition over the past decade, art house filmmaking often struggled to find a foothold, facing the dual challenges of censorship and difficulties in securing screen share amid the industry’s gold-rush-like atmosphere. But the past two years have brought encouraging industry support measures, as well as a diversification of consumer tastes. In November 2016, the Chinese government threw support behind art cinema with the establishment of the National Arthouse Film Alliance, an indie film circuit managed by the China Film Archive, with support from commercial cinema chains including Edko.
“Over the last few years we’ve been thrilled to witness the Chinese audience’s growing appreciation of quality filmmaking, which has led to the breakout success of several Chinese arthouse films,” added Ellen Eliasoph, CEO of Perfect Village Entertainment, a joint venture between Village Roadshow, Endeavor and Chinese studio Perfect World. “The time has come for us to join forces to unlock the enormous potential of this sector and help China’s young filmmakers grow and thrive.”