Cost of loving

Big profits as Chinese embrace Valentine’s Day

Cost of loving

Xu Jinglei: in Valentine’s movie

Mixing Mao with romantic entertainment does not sound like the most promising collaboration. But a film released on Valentine’s Day has managed to connect the two, if only thanks to its title.

The much-hyped romantic flick Jiang Ai Qing Jin Xing Dao Di has a title that’s adapted from Mao’s well known phrase: Jiang Ge Ming Jin Xing Dao Di. That translates as ‘To Carry Revolution to the End’ and was penned in 1948 as a call to comrades to fight on until the civil war was won.

The film’s title renders in English as the somewhat more amorous ‘To Carry Love to the End’, and it is based on a hit TV show from 1998 of the same name (perhaps realising that Mao references will be lost to English speakers, the film’s international title is Eternal Moment).

Starring Xu Jinglei and Li Yapeng (the husband of famed local popstar Faye Wong), the movie appeals to a generation keen to recall the popular small screen drama.

Fast forward just over a decade, and the sentiment seems more commercial than nostalgic. Wong, who has emerged from self-imposed ‘early retirement’ to sing the theme song, evidently senses box office gold. Her husband has co-produced and invested in the film, and estimates are that it took Rmb100 million ($15.18 million) on its opening day ­– a pretty good start.

Perhaps that should not be such a big surprise. The script has been written very much with a key Chinese demographic in mind – the ‘Post-Eighties Generation’, so-called because they were born in the 1980s after Deng’s economic reforms began. The movie brings them up to date on how the original characters have fared.

Much like the (apparently never ending) Sex and the City franchise, this chick-flick may find one or two reluctant husbands dragged to the cinema in coming days. Nor was it a coincidence it was released on Valentine’s Day: a tactic that reflects the increasing popularity of this Western celebration in China.

Online shopping mart Taobao (see WiC94), for example, reported that February 14 is becoming big business. The site had sold 2.1 million flowers and 40,000 boxes of chocolates ahead of Cupid’s favourite day. That was up 110% on last year.

Meanwhile a survey conducted by Xinhua found that 65% of respondents were budgeting for at least Rmb800 to spend on a dinner, flowers and a movie – that was up 30% versus last year (prices are up too, of course).

Western brands have been promoting Valentine’s Day in recent years, sensing a commercial opportunity. Hence the Wall Street Journal notes that KFC (see WiC53) has been pushing its egg tarts this year as the perfect way to say ‘I love you’. KFC claims to sell 300 million of the custard-based desserts annually, and marketed a Valentine’s gift box of six (the Portuguese delicacy made it onto the KFC menu by way of its popularity in Macau).

For those who wanted to declare their undying love with a bit more of a splash, Shanghai’s Peninsula Hotel offered a special package in its premier 400 square metre suite. Complete with a working fireplace, private gym and view over the Bund, the Peninsula Suite is true lap of luxury stuff. Guests also got a round-trip transfer by Rolls-Royce, as well as dinner in the hotel restaurant of their choice – as well as champagne in the suite. It wasn’t cheap, mind you. The one-night Valentine’s package was evidently targeted at the country’s super-rich, given it cost Rmb99,999.

China Daily reports that – at a somewhat more modest price point – ‘love hotels’ were also a beneficiary. Copied from the Japanese, most hotels have a range of themes and features. Rooms are booked in three hour slots (so plenty of time to profess one’s love with a few rounds of KFC’s tarts). Leading online travel agency Ctrip reported that love was in the air on Monday evening. “All 78 of our rooms were reserved for Valentine’s Day by mid-January,” says Xu Wen, manager of Shanghai-based We Love Hotel.

For those lacking a relationship, the celebratory day was anything but. An annual event at Beijing’s Sculpture Park – held in the week before Valentine’s Day – drew 50,000, with single guys and girls posting their personal information in the hope of finding their match.

Many commented that it was a fairly uninspiring experience. “This is not romantic at all,” 24 year-old Yu Junjie told the China Daily, complaining that many of the people posting were far less concerned with affairs of the heart than with their prospective partner’s financial status. As if to prove the point, the newspaper interviewed a lady called Li, who described her requirements as “quite simple”. The man of her dreams had to own an apartment, and have a college degree.

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