As 14-time nominee La La Land is set to sweep Academy Awards on Sunday, it is time to look back at the journey of imported Oscar nominees in China.
Among 9 nominees vying for Best Picture award, La La Land, Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge are all showing in China. Thus far the three all performed quite well at box offices. The romantic musical La La Land grossed 200 million yuan ($29.11 million), breaking the box office record for a musical in China; war epic Hacksaw Ridge took in 450 million yuan ($61.87 million) while science fiction Arrivalsold 109 million yuan ($15.86 million).
China's foreign film import program started in 1994. The first imported foreign film was an Oscar norminee: The Fugitive, directed by Andrew Davis and starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture; Jones won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. In the next year, Forrest Gump won 6 Oscars including Best Film and was imported to China, grossing 19.6 million yuan.
But the real Oscar phenomenon in China was Titanic, the Academy Awards big winner was imported in China in 1998 and grossed 360 million yuan at that time, the highest box office record in China for years, and the film became a cultural phenomenon and a generation's memory.
Since then, China started to import more and more Oscar nominees, from Saving Private Ryan,Gladiators, The Lord of the Rings, Moulin Rouge, The King's Speech, Life of Pi to The Revenant, as well as Chinese-American co-production Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won Best Foreign Language Film, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score and Best Cinematography.
Thus far, 36 Oscar nominee films have been imported into the China market and together they have grossed about 5.8 billion yuan at the box office offices in total. Eleven Oscar nominees or winners imported in China are drama features, but they performed poorly in the market. The big grossers are sci-fi actioners, including Avatar, The Martian, Inception and Gravity.
Chinese investors are increasingly getting involved into the Oscar projects as Chinese capital now flows to the Hollywood. There is Chinese capital, investors and distributors behind this year's La La Land and Hacksaw Ridge and Chinese elements are in the Arrival, based on a 1998 short story and novella Story of Your Life written by Chinese-American Ted Chiang. But so far Guangdong Alpha Animation and Culture Company's financing in The Revenant, the Oscar Best Picture for 2016, has been viewed as the biggest triumph for a Chinese company.