New Tidings in China from Reality TV Programs

February 8, 2015
By Xu FanEditor: Tracy Zhu
Poster for popular reality TV shows adapted into movies, 'Where are We Going, Dad? 2' [China Daily]

This year's lunar New Year holiday season is likely to witness fierce competition at the country's box office among three movies that have been adapted from reality TV programs.

The Chinese movies Running Man, Where are We Going, Dad? 2 and Emperor's Holidays are all based on South Korean TV shows.

The feature film adapted from the popular TV show, Where are We Going, Dad?, hit an amazing box-office run of 700 million yuan ($112 million) in 2014, and it was the eighth most profitable Chinese-language movie last year. The low-budget movie took just five days to shoot.

So some critics called it "an extended version of the TV show".

Featuring celebrities who risk an adventurous journey to win a race, the 80 million yuan TV show, Running Man, has earned a record rating at 4.2 percent in 35 major cities, topping the audiences list with its 13 episodes from last October to the middle of January.

Starring rising Chinese movie star Chen He and South Korean A-list actor Kim Jong-kook, the comedy film adapted from the TV show premiered on Jan 30 and grossed 227 million yuan at the box office in the first three days.

On average, audiences laughed 86 times while watching the 88-minute movie, and about 590 million posts on Chinese micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo mentioned the movie as of Monday, according to data from Wanda Group, the film's distributor.

The TV program, Where are We Going, Dad? 2, the sequel to its last year's first installment, shows four celebrity fathers trying to "survive" with their children on an island of the Republic of Fiji.

The hit show behind the movie, which records the stars' parenting challenges from rural China to picturesque Rotorua in New Zealand, has gained the second-highest rating of nearly 2.5 percent.

During his visit to New Zealand last November, President Xi Jinping noted that the show had contributed to a rising number of Chinese tourists to New Zealand, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Emperor's Holidays is directed by Wang Yuelun, who was a celebrity father in the fatherhood series' first season. The movie, which claims to be a "real" drama as the actors need to "play the roles", will be screened in Chinese theaters on February 19, the same day as Dad 2 and also the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

With such movies becoming popular, trade analysts say the holiday season-one of the most profitable periods for Chinese movies-looks set to be dominated by the so-called unconventional movies.

"Filmmaking is like a money-hunting game now. Few producers really care about what a good movie should be," says critic Han Haoyue.

"When a new-genre film gains success at the box office, a slew of replicas will be produced. But it seems the producers just forget the basic rule of 'content is king'."

Producer Zhang Yaping says that Running Man, which was filmed over six months, wasn't tailored for profit.

"Though it enjoyed a high TV rating, it's still hard to estimate how many TV viewers will buy tickets for the movie. It's unfair to call the movie a 'money-hunter'," she says.

She adds the TV show, which was popular with millions of Chinese viewers, also inspired people to live healthier.

Zhang Hui, the branding head of Shanghai-based EE-Media which produced the Dad movies, disagrees with the opinions defining a "normal" movie.

"The world's first known movie (Roundhay Garden Scene) is only two seconds long. The Battle of Dingjunshan, the first movie made by China, is a silent production. So why must a movie obey rules, such as having dramatic storylines and prewritten dialogues?" he asks.

"The Dad franchise has its own features, such as the happy family subject matter. We'll never do movies with written scripts. How can you expect children ages 3 and 4 to remember the lines?" Zhang says.

While the producers defend the growing trend, some analysts continue to see money as the main motivation behind such moviemaking.

"Movies are for consumption, so it is natural that maximum profits will be pursued," says Zuo Heng, deputy director of cinema studies at the China Film Archives.

Younger Chinese audiences, compared to their counterparts in mature Western markets, have little interest in noting the difference between small and big screens, he adds. Young Chinese form the bulk of the country's filmgoers.

"If the movie can make them laugh and stars their favorite actors, they will buy the tickets and don't care if it's a real or good movie," Zuo says.

"The controversy mainly reflects the elite class' worries over the humiliation of high-end culture and 'good taste'."

(Source: China Daily)

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