Co-productions across the Straits Boom

The newly released co-production "Starry Starry Night"

When Ang Lee embraced Hollywood, Brigitte Lin retired from public life and the silver screens were packed with movies from Hollywood, many people said that Taiwan films were dead.

Several years ago, there was a clear consensus regarding the fate of Taiwan films.

Duan Cunxin, secretary-general of the Taiwan Movie Exchange Association across the Straits, said during an interview in Beijing, “In the 80s and 90s, Taiwan came through a serious economic slump. At that time, blockbusters from Hollywood dominated the screens. Box office revenues from homegrown flicks took less than 1% of the total ticket sales.”

A veteran movie critic also revealed during that period that anyone watching a mandarin picture in Taiwan must have lost his mind. Big Hollywood productions were the first choice for Taiwan’s movie-goers.

The performance of Taiwan films on the mainland was also lackluster, providing little hope for the ailing Taiwan film industry.

In 1989, Chen Chu-Huang’s “My Loved” caused a sensation on the mainland, though the glory for Taiwan cinema was short lived.

It is estimated that only 11 Taiwan-made films have hit mainland cinemas since then, among which only 3 have been able to garner box office revenues over 10 million yuan, with the rest raking in less than 5 million yuan respectively.

The highest money taker in this period was the 2008 production “Cape No.7”, which took over 36 million yuan on the mainland. In contrast, musical romance “Stand in Love” was a complete flop only taking 20 thousand yuan.

Nonetheless, the film industry in Taiwan reached a turning point with Wei Te-Sheng’s “Cape No.7”, which raked in more than 100 million yuan in Taiwan and garnered around 36 million yuan on the mainland. Since then, films from Taiwan have undergone something of a renaissance, with improved takings at the box office.

In 2011, “Night Market Hero,” “You are the Apple of My Eye” and “Seediq Bale” all crossed the 100 million Taiwan dollars threshold.

Liang Liang, a Chinese film critic said, “Several years ago, as long as box office revenue reached 8 million, a victory meeting would be held. Nowadays, the number is set at 100 million”. He also stated that ” Ticket sales from Taiwan-made projects until October are estimated to be as high as 12% of the whole year’s box office earnings, setting a 30-year peak.”

Thanks to a prospering Chinese mainland film market, co-productions across the Straits have shed some much needed light on Taiwan’s film industry.

Prior to 2011, only Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” in 2007 and Chu Yin-Ping’s “Kung Fu Dunk” in 2008 received positive responses.

However, everything has changed in 2011. Co-productions have surged across the Straits, as evidenced by the newly released “Starry Starry Night”, award-winning piece “Kora”, and the upcoming production of “Love”.

Taiwan film makers have set their sights on the huge mainland audience. In the future, we are likely to see more and more co-productions, as film companies try to cash in on this huge film market.

Liu Shuai
Chinese Films