Two films have swept away almost all of the Chinese cinema receipts during the Lunar New Year celebrations which are coming to an end: the science fiction film The Wandering Earth 2, directed by Frant Gwo, but above all Full River Red, the latest production by filmmaker Zhang Yimou (red sorghum, The great wall, The Forbidden City…).
Released Sunday January 22, Full River Red has already achieved a turnover of 3.5 billion yuan (about 473 million euros), surpassing its challenger (about 392 million euros). In one week, these two films have exceeded, by far, Avatar 2, by James Cameron (216 million euros), released in China on Friday December 16, 2022. These two blockbusters crushed the competition so much that some producers preferred to withdraw their film from the poster and wait for better days. Unheard of, as this period of the year is prosperous for the seventh art. This is particularly the case of Ping Pong of China, a film celebrating the national table tennis team.
But, very quickly, Zhang Yimou’s film provoked several controversies. That this historical film recounting the betrayal, in the XIe century, of General Yue Fei, national hero, by Prime Minister Qin Hui ends with a sentence that makes heavy reference to Taiwan – “Only by recovering the lost territories will we respond to the demand of the people” – did not go unnoticed. But, above all, influential Internet users have suggested that the distributors artificially inflate the number of entries.
In fact, some cinemas seem to have, on their online booking site, scheduled ten sessions in one morning, while they only have two rooms. However, eight of the ten sessions being sold out, spectators must therefore fall back on the last two. For Internet users, the eight so-called complete sessions are phantom sessions, but whose fictitious entries will be counted by the algorithms indicating the success of a film. Objective: to attract viewers to an alleged blockbuster.
Another criticism made of the film: some scenes are pure plagiarism of a soap opera broadcast in 2013. The film’s producers recognize that some cinemas had ” technical issues “ when selling tickets, but refute any idea of manipulation and plagiarism. They have announced that they want to file a complaint against four particularly virulent influencers. However, one of them is none other than Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University (Shanghai), a specialist in cyberspace governance. This man with two million followers says to himself “honoured” that his criticisms were heard. He seems delighted with the lawsuit against him and which will force film professionals to open their account books.
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