Nicholas Cage, star of hits such as Season of the Witch, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, G-Force and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. (Photo/Xinhua)
Hollywood stars are upping their efforts to woo Chinese audiences, as China's burgeoning film market, currently the world's second largest behind the United States, continues to post surprisingly strong ticket sales at the box office.
Nicolas Cage was recently in Shanghai to promote his action film Stolen, which opened in China on March 1. The visit marked the actor's first movie-promotion trip to the country.
Actress Meryl Streep also made an effort to promote The Iron Lady, which won her another best actress Oscar last year, by writing a letter to Chinese audiences. The film, based on the life of former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, is scheduled to hit Chinese screens on International Women's Day on March 8.
Besides sharing her passion for the film, the Streep signed off as "Mei Yi" (meaning Aunt Meryl) in Chinese characters at the end of the letter. Streep also gave telephone interviews to the Chinese press.
These developments came after Chinese comedy Lost in Thailand, which opened in December, created a new local box office record of 1.26 billion Chinese yuan (US$202.5 million) as at the end of January.
According to China's official Xinhua news agency, in 2012, the country released 893 Chinese films and 34 foreign films, which racked up more than 17 billion yuan (US$2.73 billion) in movie ticket sales. China increased its foreign film quota from 20 to 34 last year.
In addition, data from China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television showed that the country had posted a 30% increase in total box office sales in 2011, with foreign films accounting for 51% of that amount. This was the first time that foreign films bested their Chinese peers in nine years.
As a result, Chinese film distributors are spending big bucks to acquire the rights to release foreign films in China.
There are rumors about a Chinese company buying the rights to the new Johnny Depp film, Transcendence, which is scheduled for a North America release in April 2014, for US$8 million.
The third installment of The Expendables, featuring action stars including Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jet Li, is rumored to have been sold for US$15 million in China, since the 2012 sequel had earned US$53 million at the Chinese box office.
According to market estimates, the average price quote for Hollywood films in China stood at around US$1 million in 2012, which reflected a 10-fold growth in prices from three years earlier.