Putting ghost butts in seats

Updated: 2015-10-19 07:14

By Raymond Zhou(China Daily)

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Putting ghost butts in seats

[Photo by Wang Xiaoying/China Daily]

China's film business is booming. By the end of the National Day holiday week in October, the year's total box office was 35 billion yuan ($5.56 billion), higher than the cumulative takings of 2014, which stood at 29.6 billion.

But just as every cloud has a silver lining, every heartening story may have its dark spot. Some of the box-office figures, according to recent press investigations, could be fabricated.

On Oct 7, Guangzhou Daily published a story that gave evidence of wee-hour screenings of Lost in Hong Kong as "phantom shows". This means the screenings, usually taking place between midnight and early morning, are shown on the computer system as fully booked, but if you get in to take a peek, you'll find they are completely empty. The purpose of these screenings is to inflate box-office receipts of the film.

A previous target of such criticism was Monster Hunt, now officially the highest-grossing movie in Chinese history with a collection of 2.439 billion yuan.

But after it made 2.3 billion yuan, accusations of cooking the books trickled in from some media and industry insiders. Audience attendance was petering out, said the critics, just as it was edging close to the record of 2.425 billion yuan set by Fast & Furious 7, so the temptation was irresistible.

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