2017-12-11 10:11

Experts: IP adaptations to scale new heights

By Pearl Liu in Hong Kong

As films adapted from intellectual property become all the rage, the movie industry is urged to focus more on quality storylines and  professionalism to sustain growth

(From left) Li Yao, news editor at China Daily Hong Kong and moderator; Song Ping, deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily Hong Kong; Tony Gao, EntGroup partner and general manager of East China; Vice-President of China Literature Luo Li; Chairman and President of Ciwen Media Ma Zhongjun; and Geng Xiaonan, president of Beijing Sky Saga Film and TV Culture Media, pose for a group photo at the China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable forum themed “The Trend of Film Adaptation” held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Thursday. (PHOTO BY ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY)

Online-novel-turned films are expected to gain fresh momentum and traction in future, with intellectual property becoming the latest buzzword in the movie industry, IP adaptation pundits predicted on Thursday.

Literature, animation, music and video games have emerged as powerful sources of inspiration for films in China and around the world, and the cash generated by such adaptations is likely to grow, panelists told a forum at the China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable themed “the Trend of Film Adaptation” on Thursday.

The forum, co-organized by China Daily Asia Pacific and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, brought together prominent film producers, investors and top-tier industry stakeholders. It was held as part of the Business of IP Asia Forum.

“We see further successes of IP movies and they have a very strong ability to make money. Although the number of IP movies is not that big, their contributions to the box office have been far bigger than those of other movies,” said Ma Zhongjun, president and chairman of Ciwen Media — a leading Beijing-based entertainment media company.

IP adaptations are big money makers. Last year, about half of the movies that made more than 100 million yuan (US$15 million) at the box office in China were IP adaptations. Together, they made up slightly more than a third of box-office revenues last year.

A case in point is the film Once Upon a Time, a popular IP adaptation from a fantasy romantic online novel. It raked in 530 million yuan at the box office this summer.

The film is based on one of the best-selling fantasy novels Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms. The original story was viewed more than 500 million times online.

Chinese filmmakers’ appetite for IP has been growing and much of their interest in online literature, in particular, has fallen. Online literature is regarded as sitting on the very top of the upstream of the entire pan-entertainment industry chain and the main reason for this is the large number of readers, together with their tremendous consumption power. After all, it makes sense to develop products based on what’s popular with audiences.

“A majority of online literature readers are those who were born after 1995. Different from the older generation who read online content just to kill time, the post-1995 readers read because they love what they read and enjoy the social activity in the community that emerged from online literature reading and, more importantly, they are willing to pay for the content they like,” said Tony Gao, EntGroup partner and general-manager of East China, a company that provides information and intelligence concerning the entertainment industry in China.

Luo Li, vice-president of China Literature — the online publishing unit of web entertainment leader Tencent Holdings — said the favor and interest in the capital market of online literature IP have grown stronger. China Literature produces the very contents that filmmakers look for to adapt them into films.

“In 2006, we sold our fantasy series Ghost Blows Out The Light for 400,000 yuan. That was an amazing figure already as we gave the deal a big celebration when it was signed,” Luo recalled. That deal, worth the equivalent of US$60,000, was very big for its time, but peanuts compared to the more than US$60 million that another property fetched more recently.

Members of the audience stay tuned as the panelists share their thoughts on film adaptation at the forum. (PHOTO BY ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY)

Changing market trend

“In comparison, we just sold another sought-after IP for more than 40 million yuan. This is how the IP market has changed in the past decade,” he said.

China Literature was created after a merger between Tencent Literature and Shanghai-based Shanda Cloudary. The company operates an online book marketplace.

In September, Tencent Pictures and China Literature announced a plan to produce 11 films and TV series adaptations, including some of the best-selling books on the online reading website, covering fantasy, history, sports, martial arts and other genres.

The online publishing and e-book company’s initial public offering in Hong Kong this month was oversubscribed more than 50 times, highlighting the general level of interest in it. The company raised about HK$8.33 billion. Investors’ craze for China Literature’s shares partly reflected the huge potential of IP.

Meanwhile, video games have shown the genre that they may become the next cash cow for movie adaptation.

Warcraft: The Beginning — a film adaptation based on the hugely popular multiplayer game World of Warcraft — proved to be a massive hit in China, with a first-day box-office take of 304 million yuan. It eventually earned 1.47 billion yuan.

The success was partly accredited to the popularity of video games in the country. Statistics show that in the first six months of this year, sales of competitive gaming products hit US$5.4 billion in the Chinese market, up 43 percent year-on-year, according to Beijing-based video game research firm CNG.

A telling example is that some 40,000 fans watched the finals of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship at Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium and nearly 100 million Chinese watched the game online. The number is about five times the population of Beijing.

“Movies based on video games have largely diversified the sector. The loyalty of the game players and the maturity of the IP reduce the risk of the adaptation, providing a guarantee to the investors to some extent,” said Ma.

“In future, with the rapid development of innovative technologies, VR for example, the adaptation of video games will become easier and convenient. It will become an accelerator of the film industry’s growth,” he said.

China Literature recently signed lucrative deals with local video streaming sites seeking to adapt its hit manga series Fights Break Spheres and The King’s Avatar.

But, compared to developed markets, film adaptations are still in their infancy in the country, and there will be a long and rugged path ahead.

Criticisms of shoddy films wrecking the original content have always been vocal and some of the adaptations have done poorly at the Chinese box office.

Big disappointment

L.O.R.D: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties, which screened last summer, was a big budget disappointment. The animated fantasy, starring the country’s best-earning actress Fan Bingbing and famous K-pop singer Kris Wu, and directed by China’s richest writer Guo Jingming, flopped. It netted only 350 million yuan on the mainland amid poor reviews.

“With the original content being widely spread and well liked, the movie based on it will cause large attention. It is a double-edged sword. If you do a cheesy job, you will get a lot of, and larger than ever, bad reviews,” said Geng Xiaonan, president of Beijing Sky Saga Film and TV Culture Media, a Chinese TV and film production company.

At the end of the day, the question that industry players need to ask themselves, as they invest in films, is: How to recognize good IP and turn a good IP into a good movie?

“A lot of industry players mark 2015 as the first year of IP movies. However, after only two years, we already see signals of it turning weak and a chaotic market,” said Geng.

“The problem is that some industry players have lost direction on their way to chasing after so-called super IPs, with a lot of attention and large numbers of fans.”

As Geng sees it, the trend of IP selling at exorbitant prices for movie adaptation is not healthy.

“We, sometimes, forget a basic thing, which is whether the content of the IP is a fit for movie production,” he said. “Not all content, which may be a huge hit in its own format like literature or music or video games, can make a good movie. Beyond everything, movies and those (formats) are different media.”

Both the industry and the audience expect more adaptations that tell meaningful and attractive stories in a professional way.

And Geng, for one, has high hopes pinned on Youth, the latest film by director Feng Xiaogang that will screen on Dec 15. The film has been adapted from the book Fang Hua by novelist Yan Geling.

Source: https://www.chinadailyhk.com/articles/60/82/231/1512701188816.html