China Film Pavilion in Cannes Showcases Hits, Opens Door to Potential Partners

China Film Pavilion in Cannes Showcases Hits, Opens Door to Potential Partners
May 2023

For the second year running, Chinese film industry leaders are reaching out to the international film community: "The International Village of the Festival de Cannes has always been an important platform for countries to showcase their soft power in film."

Chinese cinema makes its in-person return to Cannes this year, buoyed by a bounce-back in post-COVID box office revenue, and talking up its efforts to engage with the global film community.

Taking center stage is the China Film Pavilion, set up by the China Film Co-Production Corporation (CFCC), under the guidance of and with the support of the China Film Administration, and the aim is to share with the world insights and updates into the state of play in the Chinese film industry.

"We hope to fully present the latest performances of the Chinese film industry through the China Film Pavilion and to promote exchanges and cooperation between the Chinese and foreign film industries," said a CFCC representative.

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The initiative comes at a time when the Chinese film market appears to be beginning to claw its way back toward pre-COVID levels following the hardships of the global pandemic and the direct impact that had on both making and being able to watch movies.

As of the end of April, the year-to-date box office in China had hit $2.7 billion (RMB 18.7 billion) which was up 28.8 percent compared with 2022, but still down 20 percent from the heights of 2019, according to industry trackers Artisan Gateway.

Cannes arrives just months after the first major indicator that Chinese cinema was on the rebound when the annual Lunar New Year holiday saw audiences flock back to cinemas around the country. The box office reports were certainly impressive, with a 12 percent rise in ticket sales from the pandemic-cruelled previous year seeing figures top $1 billion (RMB 6.8 billion). The headlines then claimed it was the second-biggest holiday for cinema on record.

There were massive hauls for two holiday releases -- the layered historical mystery Full River Red from Zhang Yimou, which has now taken in an estimated $673.5 million globally, and The Wandering Earth 2, which saw Frank Guo look to the stars once again, claiming an estimated haul of just over $604 million.

The China Pavilion will showcase The Wandering Earth 2 among a lineup of more than 90 successful Chinese films from the past few years. These films will form part of the booth set up in Cannes, which will also invite international visitors to engage with around 40 of the leading professional Chinese film institutions, including production companies, copyright agencies, film festival organizations, film industry associations, and film academies. Also on offer will be themed booklets that will provide updates on the recent overall performance of the Chinese film industry and an overview of Chinese production.

The actual pavilion facility will meanwhile play host to a series of seminars focused on explaining what's going on in China, as well as other activities such as individual film promotions, and the overall aim is to inform but also attract potential partners from the international film community.

"This is the second consecutive year that China Film Pavilion has appeared at Cannes," the CFCC said in a statement. "It is set up to make overseas filmmakers gain a deeper understanding of China's film industry through on-site displays and special events. It also serves as a platform for Chinese film companies and filmmakers to enter the international market."

The pavilion's presence at the world's most influential film festival keeps rolling a promotion tour that over the past two years has seen the China Film Pavilion also set up at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and at the Busan International Film Festival, arguably the two most important cinema gatherings in Asia.

A signal that China was open for business and looking to reach both international partners and audiences was also sounded at this year's 73rd Berlin International Film Festival in February - in its role as the first stop on the major international film festival circuit - where six Chinese productions made their world premieres.

Two of the productions being featured at the China Film Pavilion have also enjoyed traction internationally this year, with The Wandering Earth 2 being rolled out in more than 125 cinemas - including 30 Imax houses - across the U.S. and Canada. Meanwhile, the air force actioner Born to Fly was given a simultaneous global release across markets that included the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, while leading the way across China's May Day holiday when it claimed an opening weekend take of an estimated $44 million (RMB 279 million).

Beyond those two features, the China Film Pavilion will showcase to international visitors the likes of Meg 2: The Trench, Kung Fu Leeuw, Nostalgia, I Love You!, and The Belief, according to the CFCC. Additionally, the screens at the booth will feature an overview of 2022 in the Chinese film industry and assorted promos from Chinese film institutions.

China's presence at Cannes this year is all about making a connection with the global filmmaking community, according to the CFCC.

"The International Village of the Festival de Cannes has always been an important platform for countries to showcase their soft power in film and promote international cooperation," the CFCC highlighted in its statement. "The China Pavilion at the International Village [will] organize a series of special events such as theme forums, master classes, and film promotions to showcase China's soft power in film, [thereby] attracting many Chinese and foreign filmmakers."

Concluded the CFCC: "Many foreign filmmakers have expressed their willingness to cooperate with Chinese filmmakers and to further understand the Chinese film market and film companies. Representatives of Chinese film institutions hope to use the stage of China Film Pavilion to enhance exchanges and cooperation between Chinese filmmakers and international counterparts, thereby making more quality Chinese films go global."

Where to find them

Booth: PALAIS-1 18.04, Palais des Festivals et des Congres

Pavilion: Pantiero n? 206, International Village