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Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan on Sunday extolled the Chinese film industry’s emerging market prowess at the Shanghai International Film Festival.
Saying that China was overlooked as a “nothing market” for decades, Chan suggested that the world has come to see the country’s entertainment sector in a very different light of late. He cited the phenomenal Chinese box-office performance of Legendary Entertainment’s Warcraft as evidence of the new order.
“Warcraft made 600 million RMB [$91 million] in two days — this has scared the Americans,” Chan said. “If we can make a film that earns 10 billion [$1.5 billion], then people from all over the world who study film will learn Chinese, instead of us learning English,” he added. (As of Saturday, Warcraft had grossed $144.7 million in China over four days, while it opened to just $10.7 million on Friday in North America, where it has been hit with mostly negative reviews.)
While Legendary, the studio behind director Duncan Jones’ Warcraft, remains mostly U.S.-led and operated, the company was bought by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group for $3.5 billion in January.
Chan was speaking at a kickoff event for his namesake Jackie Chan Action Movie Week program at the Shanghai International Film Festival, which screens a selection of new and recent pics from the genre that made Chan famous. The event was held at a downtown Shanghai cinema and attracted a full house.
China’s annual box office total hit $6.78 billion in 2015, and the country is expected to top North America ($11 billion last year) as the world’s largest theatrical market in 2017.
It was unclear whether Chan was suggesting that he hopes a Chinese movie will make $1.5 billion from the Chinese market alone or worldwide. The biggest Chinese — or Hong Kong-Chinese — film to date is Stephen Chow’s comedy-fantasy The Mermaid, which grossed $528.6 million earlier this year. The highest-grossing movie ever worldwide is still Avatar with $2.7 billion, while Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the biggest ever in a single territory, having taken $936.6 million from North America alone.
If the Chinese box office continues growing at an average rate of 30 percent per year — which it has for the past five years — it’s conceivable that the country could produce a $1.5 billion domestic-grosser sometime over the next five to 10 years, barring a major market-stalling event.
“It is you, not us, who makes China powerful,” Chan said to the mostly Chinese crowd in attendance. “So, thank you all — we hope the Chinese film industry gets even more powerful.”
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