Romance on the rise?

Low-budget movie trumps rivals with Singles’ Day success

Romance on the rise?

Catapulted to fame: Bai Baihe

Watching When Harry Met Sally, we discovered that platonic friendship really was difficult, after all. After Bridget Jones’ Diary, we accepted that a sophisticated man could fall in love with someone quite the opposite. And from Notting Hill, we even sympathised (some of us) that a superstar can be “just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”.

Perhaps it’s best not to rely too heavily on Hollywood for our emotional development.

But Chinese audiences also seem to be responding rather enthusiastically to romantic comedies themselves, as an up-and-coming movie genre.

The latest evidence comes from last week, with Love is Not Blind, a film with no major stars and a budget of only Rmb9 million, proving a surprise hit, charming both audiences and critics alike. In its first week it took over Rmb200 million ($30 million) at the box office.

The film is based on an adaptation of Bao Jingjing’s novel – a 2009 bestseller in China – and has claimed top spot at the box office eight days in a row, ahead of Hollywood blockbusters like Immortals, Real Steel and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

In fact, Love is Not Blind joins Let the Bullets Fly, Aftershock and If You Are The One 2 as the fourth Chinese film to surpass $30 million in ticket sales in its first week of release.

The film tells the tale of likeable Xiaoxian (played by starlet Bai Baihe), a successful wedding planner who finds out that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with her best friend. Heartbroken, she begins to keep a diary about being unlucky in love. She also turns to her business partner (Wen Zhang) for support.

Astonishingly enough, the two soon develop more than a business relationship.

“The success of Love is Not Blind is very surprising. Everyone in the industry thought domestic films are going to be slaughtered with the massive influx of Hollywood blockbusters,” box office analyst Liu Jia told Tencent Entertainment.

“So imagine the surprise after the first two days of the movie’s release. Everyone called to ask if the numbers were being made-up.”

They weren’t, although it wouldn’t be the first time that box office number were allegedly made up (see WiC115 and WiC118).

The movie’s timing certainly helps. Love is Not Blind was released to coincide with Singles’ Day, an unofficial holiday on November 11 each year, when millions of singletons get together to celebrate (and shop online, see last week’s issue).

“The movie is about a girl who is heartbroken after her boyfriend cheated on her,” Zuo Fei, a 26 year-old woman in Zhejiang told the China Daily. “Watching another girl’s sad story makes me feel less sad about myself on Singles’ Day.”

Industry observers say the film’s success also shows that costume dramas and martial arts productions are falling out of fashion.

“The fact is, Chinese moviegoers are desensitised by the flood of historical dramas and propaganda films… Love is Not Blind is like a breath of fresh air,” says Beijing Youth Daily. “The believable situations and dialogue set it apart from other domestic productions.”

Love Is Not Blind is the second hit from production company Perfect World Pictures, which also released The Piano in a Factory (see WiC117), which garnered various awards in China and internationally.

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