Chinese propaganda film cheats on box office figures?

July 6, 2011Jing Gao5 Comments, , , , , , , , , , , ,

A microblog post on Sina Weibo with three pictures shows that several movie theaters in various cities are vending tickets to other films under the guise of Beginning of the Great Revival (formerly known as The Founding of A Party) so that all ticket sales count toward the single film whereas theaters will not lose too much traffic because of its unappealing theme.


All three movie tickets printed out at the ticket offices say “Beginning of the Great Revival.” However, staff jotted down handwritten notes on the tickets directing moviegoers to films such as Kung Fu Panda and Swordsmen.

When reached for comment, Jiang Defu, spokesperson for China Film Group Corporation, the state-run film enterprise which produced Revival, said the company does not know or support the conduct, and would immediately order the distributors to investigate into the matter. Jinyi Movie Theater in Zhaoqing, Guangdong province, one of the theaters rumored to have rigged ticket sales, explained apologetically in its official microblog that it was merely an erroneous operation by its staff.

However, netizens believe movie theaters and the state film company have a motive to blow the box office figure out of proportion, as the authorities would be embarrassed if a much publicized propaganda film like this one has bombed, and movie theaters would have to take the blame.

The star-studded film Beginning of the Great Revival (‘Revival’ for future references in this article) is a tribute to the 90th birthday of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) celebrated on July 1. As a prequel to The Founding of A Republic, a 2009 film presented to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of People’s Republic of China, Revival keeps the official narrative of CPC’s birth and growth at a time when forward-looking Chinese, including young Mao, felt the urge to change the country broken apart and humiliated by foreign invaders and riddled with corruption and tyranny caused by Qing Dynasty as well as the Kuomingtang.

Revival casts over 100 well-established entertainers, including Andy Lau, Chow Yun-fat, and Russian singer Vitas, to brighten up the otherwise drowsy and clichéd historical and revolutionary theme and attract younger audience. Many of the stars are participating on a pro bono basis. Some only have cameos and guest roles.

Offical Trailer of Beginning of the Great Revival

Before the film’s premiere, Gao Jun, Vice General Manager of the New Film Association Co.Ltd, a Beijing-based cinema chain and distributor of Revival, was quoted by Southern Weekend on May 31 as saying, “Until Beginning of the Revival achieves a considerable box office revenue, say, 800 million yuan (US$120 million), imported films such as Transformers III will not be showed.”

The remark brought about snickers as well as anxiety. Some netizens thought it would be akin to crying for the moon. On, the largest Chinese website devoted for movies, books, and music reviews, Revival was featured on the front page as highly recommended, but rating, review and comment sections have been closed. It is said that the closure is due to extremely negative review of the film generated by netizens with great passion. On VeryCD, a file-sharing website, over 90% of the users rated Revival as “trash.”

In one topic thread with an opinion poll titled “Will you pay for the 800 million yuan box office projection for Beginning of the Revival?”, 17,093 users (87.7%) said “No.” Commenter “Qiao Yudong” (乔玉东) wrote, “The movie ticket can buy several pounds of pork. Director Han, I am sorry.” Commentor “Black dragonfly” (黒蜻蜓) wrote, “Few people are willing to pay out of their own pockets for a film like this.”

Meanwhile, as a result of lack of confidence in the film, movie aficionados, especially those who covet the visual extravaganza from Hollywood, have become restless at the mere thought of having their hobby compromised, and even called for support for Revival in order to bring back Transformers III.

It is an open secret that massive public funds and state-owned companies’ public money have been expended to organize cohorts of party members to watch the film. Key in the Chinese words for ‘Revival’ and ‘Party members’ in the search engine, and you will get thousands of links to local “news stories” gushing about how party members were moved and edified by the film after mass viewings were called. The city of Changchun in northeastern Jilin province has, for example, generously footed the bill for 100,000 party members. Nevertheless, the film did not fare as well as previously thought. Experts say grossing 800 million yuan is very unlikely, as now its ticket sale has been overtaken by other domestic films.

That’s why the rumor about ticket sales theft has spawned wild guesses that movie theaters are eager to have the projection met as soon as possible so that the highly anticipated Transformers III and Harry Potter put on the back burner can go onto the wide screen. “Even (Kung Fu) Panda has joined the Party,” one microblogger said.

The most commercially successful domestic film in China so far is Let the Bullets Fly, which grossed 730 million yuan (US$111 million), whereas Avatar by Oscar-winning director James Cameron has set the record in China with a box office revenue of over 1 billion yuan.

Selected comments on the possible ticket sales theft from Sina Microblog

DDMAK :I think for a great film like this, companies should take the lead. Presidents watch 50 times. VP watch 45 times. Manager watch 40 times. Deputy managers watch 35 times. 25 times for a party member and 20 times for a youth league member. Then the box office revenue would go up. Yes or no?

飞鸟小亮: Don’t make such a fuss! Why not declare the box office to be 800 million yuan directly? People would buy it.

Vicky_Chan29:This is a country where nothing is too surprising. Our party is powerful!

斯巴Da叔: So amazing! I suggest that Revival do not get pulled off until its box office set the world record.

白淼淼:Even though our party has done this trick, it is only slightly over 300 million (yuan).

今夕是何夕77: I went to a movie yesterday. Our movie theater did not have things like this. Lucky…

若有情天: It’s true. My college went to watch Animals United. The printed ticket says Beginning of the Great Revival. The staff there said, “Don’t bother. Just watch.”

亂老師: No one can compete with Chinese in fabricating and faking things.

搬不动的猪: (I) strongly support Revival to steal ticket sales. Otherwise, until when will our Transformers III and Harry Potter VII have to wait!!

不敢吃辣: A lousy film is a lousy film…Even if it is full of stars, it is a lousy film…Boring!!!Will not watch it!!

下雪了的马甲: Why going through so much trouble? Just force everyone in the country to watch it!

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5 comments to “Chinese propaganda film cheats on box office figures?”

  1. Jay K. | July 8, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    yes you finally updated ive been wanting my fix on this website!

  2. [...] of Tofu explains how Chinese cinemas cheated on the ticket office figure of the propaganda movie Beginning of the [...]

  3. Blacksoth | July 9, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    As a foreigner I'd love to watch this film. Of course, it's not so much the awe-inspiring rise of the communist party or Mao that would be entertaining as much as the ridiculous and obvious lies they're known for. I think it would be hilarious film to watch in a "so bad, it's good" kind of way.

    The thing is, I rather DO think there should be a historical drama on Mao. I think he'd make for an individual of great interest. But it would be much better to tell the whole truth and see the many flaws of the man. Much more interesting and something to relate to.

  4. Zackary Vought | September 15, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    great post, I’m a drum student myself

  5. Ben | December 1, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    As someone who suffered through the first Transformers movie with my ten year-old, I would much rather watch even a badly scripted propaganda drama about the communist revolution in China. Though it does sound like a “horse designed by committee” type film.

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