|Peter Chan : Big cast anywhere in the world will guarantee a box office success. Movies today have become more and more like a gamble. Going to theatres is not the only way to see a movie. I grew up in a world where 100% of the audience sees the movies in cinemas. And then it became 70%, 50 % with VHS and everything. And TV. Now with download and DVD, I think only 20% of people that ever saw my films saw it in theatres. Or maybe even less. But the money that really matters to the film or the survival of the investment is coming from theatrical releases, at least 60-70%. The problem is we got 80% of people who would pay for less than 30% of our production budget. So it is a very unhealthy situation, until that situation improves and we can take the recoupment from all the ancillaries. And money is just one part of it.
The kind of impact and satisfaction and response from the audience is now still based on theatricals. So the only thing you can do today is to transform all the movies into event movies. They make a big film with a lot of stars that the audience needs to see immediately, otherwise they wait six months, two years and eventually find it on the cable channels. Which means that, not just movie stars, but people have become hysterical in term of making a movie attractive enough for a theatrical release. This is a very unhealthy situation China is facing for the last five years with all the big movies.
You’ve got to understand that we thought it was a specific Chinese problem. But that’s not true. Look at Hollywood this year. Between Spiderman 3, Pirates 3, Transformers and Harry Potter 4, those four movies are all blockbusters. Some of those broke all time records. They broke records like Gone With the Wind did at the time. I am telling you the cinema experience in the world has changed; people today go to the movie theaters to be overwhelmed, not by the story but by the magnitude and by how busy the frames are. Everybody trash those films, and they are still making money. It’s a very typical Chinese way of trashing big movies that’s make money. But now it’s happening in Hollywood, so it’s not a Chinese thing. It’s all over the world. So the cinema experience or movie-going experience in the theatrical format has become Disneyland. It has become theme park wide, completely.
I think it’s pathetic. Now that I have finally made the big movie I am like these blockbuster directors. But still I try maintaining my integrity and my passion in the story of the movie. Making The Warlords is my way of dealing with the change in the world cinema today. That’s the most I can do. I can’t go make Transformers. This is as far as I can go to bridge the gap between the contemporary world market, what the audience want with my own liking.
However, even after making the biggest movie in my career and probably the biggest budget in the last few years in China, this movie in that kind of definition is still not that commercial enough. Because if you make Transformers, you’d better not tell such a complicated story. You don’t need characters; you just need that many people.