We are saddened to report that the newest Donnie Yen wushu flick has besmirched the honorable reputation of China’s box office.
Chinese film regulators have suspended the license of Dayinmu Film Distribution, also known as Beijing Max Screen, for inflating ticket sales to the tune of 32 million ($5 million) and also purchasing 56 million yuan ($8.7 million) in tickets themselves to create buzz and box office sales for the blockbuster martial arts film “Ip Man 3” that opened in China earlier this month.
The investigation began after Chinese media spotted suspicious screenings and ticketing practices related to the film online, with some theaters shown as having sold-out screenings for the film every 10 minutes after midnight inside the same theater, according to The Wall Street Journal. Some tickets were even said to have sold for $31 a seat, which is several times higher than the price of any movie you could watch in China — this of course helped to drive up the box office numbers.
With more then 7,600 screenings claiming to have generated 32 million yuan in ticket sales, Daiyinmu has been ordered to suspend distribution for a month and warnings have also been issued to three electronic ticket sales groups.
As it turns out, “ghost screenings” aren’t such a rare thing in the film industry nowadays, apparently many distributors have turned to bulk buying because it is cheaper than advertising. But there is a tiny silver lining in the shady practice, as the tickets are often resold to online discounters so at least someone sees the film.
Last year, it was revealed that the former highest-grossing film in Chinese history, “Monster Hunt,” had engaged in just these sort of devious tactics to win its record-breaking 2.43 billion yuan at the box office with one Hong Kong broadcaster admitting to giving out 40 million free tickets. It has since been surpassed by Stephen Chow’s “The Mermaid,” which has scored over 3.3 billion yuan in ticket sales, without scandal, so far.
But it’s not just the regulators that are disgruntled with money-grubbing film fat cats either, as foreign distributors and studios have complained of losing out on revenue when Chinese theaters under report revenue to avoid paying taxes or to avoid paying film companies their share of the box office.
As for “Ip Man 3,” one would think a film with Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson exchanging blows would be more than enough to attract an audience, right?
By Kitty Lai