The cinema of China is the filmmaking and film industry of the Chinese mainland under the People's Republic of China, one of three distinct historical threads of Chinese-language cinema together with the cinema of Hong Kong and the cinema of Taiwan.
|Cinema of China|
|No. of screens||65,500 (2022)|
|• Per capita||2.98 per 100,000 (2016)|
|Main distributors||China Film (32.8%)|
|Produced feature films (2016)|
|Number of admissions (2016)|
|• Per capita||1|
|Gross box office (2016)|
|Total||CN¥45.71 billion (US$6.58 billion)|
Cinema was introduced in China in 1896 and the first Chinese film, Dingjun Mountain, was made in 1905. In the early decades the film industry was centered on Shanghai. The 1920s was dominated by small studios and commercial films, especially in the action wuxia genre. The first sound film, Sing-Song Girl Red Peony, using the sound-on-disc technology, was made in 1931. The 1930s, considered the first "Golden Period" of Chinese cinema, saw the advent of the leftist cinematic movement. The civil war between Nationalists and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was reflected in the films produced. After the Japanese invasion of China and the occupation of Shanghai, the industry in the city was severely curtailed, with filmmakers moving to Hong Kong, Chungking (Chongqing) and other places. A "Solitary Island" period began in Shanghai, where the filmmakers who remained worked in the foreign concessions. Princess Iron Fan (1941), the first Chinese animated feature film, was released at the end of this period. It influenced wartime Japanese animation and later Osamu Tezuka. After being completely engulfed by the occupation in 1941, and until the end of the war in 1945, the film industry in the city was under Japanese control.
After the end of the war, a second golden age took place, with production in Shanghai resuming. Spring in a Small Town (1948) was named the best Chinese-language film at the 24th Hong Kong Film Awards. After the Chinese Communist Revolution, domestic films that were already released and a selection of foreign films were banned in 1951, marking a tirade of film censorship in China. Despite this, movie attendance increased sharply. During the Cultural Revolution, the film industry was severely restricted, coming almost to a standstill from 1967 to 1972. The industry flourished following the end of the Cultural Revolution, including the "scar dramas" of the 1980s, such as Evening Rain (1980), Legend of Tianyun Mountain (1980) and Hibiscus Town (1986), depicting the emotional traumas left by the period. Starting in the mid to late 1980s, with films such as One and Eight (1983) and Yellow Earth (1984), the rise of the Fifth Generation brought increased popularity to Chinese cinema abroad, especially among Western arthouse audiences. Films like Red Sorghum (1987), The Story of Qiu Ju (1992) and Farewell My Concubine (1993) won major international awards. The movement partially ended after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre. The post-1990 period saw the rise of the Sixth Generation and post-Sixth Generation, both mostly making films outside the main Chinese film system which played mostly on the international film festival circuit.
Following the international commercial success of films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Hero (2002), the number of co-productions in Chinese-language cinema has increased and there has been a movement of Chinese-language cinema into a domain of large scale international influence. After The Dream Factory (1997) demonstrated the viability of the commercial model, and with the growth of the Chinese box office in the new millennium, Chinese films have broken box office records and, as of January 2017, 5 of the top 10 highest-grossing films in China are domestic productions. Lost in Thailand (2012) was the first Chinese film to reach CN¥1 billion at the Chinese box office. Monster Hunt (2015) was the first to reach CN¥2 billion. The Mermaid (2016) was the first to CN¥3 billion. Wolf Warrior 2 (2017) beat them out to become the highest-grossing film in China.
China is the home of the largest movie and drama production complex and film studios in the world, the Oriental Movie Metropolis and Hengdian World Studios, and in 2010 it had the third largest film industry by number of feature films produced annually. In 2012 the country became the second-largest market in the world by box office receipts. In 2016, the gross box office in China was CN¥45.71 billion (US$6.58 billion). The country has the largest number of screens in the world since 2016, and is expected to become the largest theatrical market by 2019. China has also become a major hub of business for Hollywood studios.
In November 2016, China passed a film law banning content deemed harmful to the "dignity, honor and interests" of the People's Republic and encouraging the promotion of "socialist core values", approved by the National People's Congress Standing Committee. Due to industry regulations, films are typically allowed to stay in theaters for one month. However, studios may apply to regulators to have the limit extended.
As Chinese audiences have become increasingly interested in Chinese-language films produced domestically, production values in domestic films have been rising. According to the research firm Ampere Analysis, domestic films accounted for 85% of China's box office in 2020. Aynne Kokas, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia and author of the book "Hollywood Made in China" stated that, "There are Chinese blockbusters that Chinese filmmakers are making that people want to watch, and they feel less derivative than those made in Hollywood." The high box office earnings of 2021 Chinese films like Hi, Mom and The Battle at Lake Changjin has indicated that the Chinese domestic film industry has reached self-reliance and does not need international audience appeal to produce commercially successful films.
Recent patriotic films have been labelled as propaganda films by western mainstream media. However Richard Peña, a lecturer at Columbia University's School of the Arts in New York told VOA in regards to the claim of "propaganda" label that it was more a matter of perspective of "the beholder". Ian Huffer, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at Massey University, added that "Most recent Chinese blockbusters that have been characterized as propaganda by Western journalism are really more like those Hollywood films over the years that have used military conflicts to evoke jingoist feeling or that show the US saving the world from global catastrophe".
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