Big-budget iGirl tests waters in online film market

Updated: 2016-01-28 10:23

By Wang Kaihao(China Daily)

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Big-budget<EM> iGirl</EM> tests waters in online film market

IGirl, directed by Hong Kong director Wong Jing (second from right), is a romantic film targeting young netizens.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Kong commercial film director Wong Jing is known for his close ties to a certain market. When he announced in Beijing on Tuesday that he will cooperate with online-video giant iQiyi for his upcoming sci-fi film, his message was clear: Forget about general interest. This is a film only for young netizens.

Produced by Wong, iGirl, which is basically about a man's adventures with his robot girlfriend, will be released on iQiyi in March.

Neither the booking of lead actor Ekin Cheng, who is an idol for the generation that grew up in the 1990s, nor the 10 million yuan ($1.52 million) budget seem outlandish in today's booming film market.

However, when the film will only be available for the website's paying users, it looks different.

China has never seen a film tailored for the Internet with so many big names plus such a budget.

Nevertheless, iGirl will also be released in Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and other markets beyond the mainland via traditional channels like cinemas and pay TV.

"Everyone now considers himself a director, whether he's a TV anchor or writer," Wong says. "As a director, maybe I should also find a part-time job."

Perhaps his part-time job is to step onto a new battlefield.

"China's Internet technology has matured enough to support a market that's just taking off (online films)," Wong says.

It is only a start for Wong's series of coproductions with iQiyi. As the country's online-video viewers, who were once known for insisting only on free online viewing, have nurtured new habits, the two sides are confident to take the adventurous step toward paid-for content.

According to a report on China's paid-for online-video market, based on data from industry analyst iResearch and the China Internet Network Information Center, the market was valued nearly 1.2 billion yuan by September 2015. IQiyi had 10 million paying users by December.

"We expect the film will bring more paying users for us," says Yang Xianghua, vice-president of iQiyi, adding that more derivative products will be developed.

"Perhaps, the upcoming film will turn a new page for the industry. Online films will thus have higher quality."

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