BEIJING Jan 6 The heroine races across the
factory floor to plunge a knife into the chest of a zombie
"Excellent!" yells director Shen Chenyan, and another scene
is in the can for the post-apocalyptic thriller "Zombie Era",
the latest domestically-produced movie destined for a growing
online audience in China.
Demand for video streaming of movies and TV shows has opened
the door to a new generation of directors like 27-year-old Shen.
The former cinematographer, who oversees 100 cast members
and crew on the Zombie Era set in an abandoned factory near the
capital Beijing, said he would have waited years for the chance
to direct a traditional cinema release.
"The quality and quantity of online movies are going up, so
it's a great opportunity to try out a few of my own thoughts and
to fulfill my intention of becoming a film director."
Although China is the world's second largest movie market,
the outlook for cinema operators is cloudy after its box-office
ended 2016 with its smallest growth in a decade, up just 3.7
percent on the year, at 45.7 billion yuan ($6.6 billion).
A slowing economy and fewer foreign blockbusters were among
the factors blamed for softer ticket sales last year, compared
to a jump of nearly 50 percent in 2015.
"I watch more movies online," said Wen, a 32-year-old nurse
in Beijing, who said he rarely goes to a cinema these days.
"You can save more money watching movies online and my work
takes up too much of my time."
"DANCE WITH HANDCUFFS"
For years online movie makers have largely flown under the
radar in China's tightly-regulated film industry.
"When online movies first got started you could do whatever
you wanted," said Liu Yongqi, producer of '30 Days to Cultivate
Love', a comedy about a man who believes he has terminal
testicular cancer and wants a child before he dies.
Online films could face greater scrutiny when a new film law
takes effect in March.
Film makers will be required to submit scripts for approval
and get a license to distribute, screen or transmit through the
internet and telecoms or radio and television networks.
More oversight to weed out excessively lurid or gory content
may not be such a bad thing, however, say some in the industry.
"People who produce the best work are still able to make do
with what we have," said Liu Zhaohui, co-founder of Beijing
Qishouyouyu Culture Media, which backed 100 online films in
2016. "That is to say, they can dance with handcuffs on."
($1=6.9086 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Additional reporting by Joe Campbell; Editing by Darren
Schuettler and Clarence Fernandez)