by Zhang Yunlong
BEIJING, May 24 (Xinhua) -- China's film industry is experiencing a surge in sequels to hit movies, with several highly anticipated follow-ups registering with the China Film Administration in the first quarter of 2023.
Among the big names are "Pegasus 2," "A Cool Fish 2," "If You Are the One 3," "I Am What I Am 2," and "B for Busy 2." Additionally, fans eagerly await new installments of the "The Wandering Earth" and "Detective Chinatown" franchises.
Industry experts say that for China's movie series to succeed, they must establish a distinctive brand and achieve sustainable development. With more sequels in production, only time will tell which titles continue to attract audiences and remain relevant amid an ever-evolving market.
Multiple movie series have proven to be box office blockbusters in China in recent years. Guo Fan's "The Wandering Earth II," a prequel to the popular 2019 sci-fi movie, made over 4 billion yuan (around 567 million U.S. dollars) and secured the 10th spot on China's all-time box office chart when it finished its theatrical run on May 15. "The Wandering Earth" is China's highest-grossing science fiction film to date, earning nearly 4.7 billion yuan in revenue.
The "Detective Chinatown" series is another box office success, with total earnings comparable to those of "The Wandering Earth" movies. Since debuting in 2015, the "Detective Chinatown" movie series has released a new film every three years, with "Detective Chinatown 3" raking in 4.5 billion yuan in 2021.
"Boonie Bears" is another flourishing series, with "Boonie Bears: Guardian Code" grossing nearly 1.5 billion yuan this year. Since the first film's release in 2014, a new "Boonie Bears" movie has hit theaters almost annually. The series boasts a stable audience base and strong box office appeal, making it a firm favorite with cinema chain managers.
"The Battle at Lake Changjin" claimed the top spot on China's all-time box office chart in 2021, grossing a record-breaking 5.775 billion yuan. Its sequel, "The Battle at Lake Changjin II," topped the annual chart the following year. Generating a total revenue of 9.8 billion yuan, the two films earned the title of China's highest-grossing film series of all time.
Movie series hold significant advantages over standalone films in terms of their impact on the box office, according to experts in the film industry.
The built-in audience for movie series, which is already invested in the characters and storylines, can result in more consistent box office performance across multiple films.
Additionally, the ability to develop more complex storylines and characters over several films can foster a deeper emotional connection with audiences and keep them engaged over a longer period.
Movie franchises are able to generate more revenue through merchandise sales, spin-offs and adaptations in other media, further enhancing their overall box office performance and long-term profitability. The success of American franchises such as "Star Wars" and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has fully demonstrated these benefits.
The Chinese film industry has been promoting original works and the development of branded and franchised films, as evidenced by a government plan for promoting the growth of the film industry from 2021 to 2025. While there has been impressive progress in the development of Chinese movie series, their exploration of brand building and sustainable development still has a long way to go.
Rao Shuguang, president of the China Film Critics Association, suggests that movie series need to establish trust and emotional connections with viewers, creating consistently pleasing interactions to maintain continuity. Film experts also stress the importance of brand building and meeting the demands of audiences and investors.
According to Chen Xuguang, director of the Institute of Film, Television and Theatre of Peking University, successful franchises are an important indicator of a film powerhouse, and creating them bears on cultural advancement.
Chen urges the Chinese film industry to stay open and actively mine cultural prototypes, while transforming traditional culture into popular and modern culture. The ultimate goal is to engage in dialogue with world cultures and create a powerhouse in the global film industry. ■