With the Chinese marking the traditional ‘ghost month’, when the deceased are said to visit the living, a 3D movie “The house that never dies” certainly got its timing right, setting the Chinese box office on fire.
The film picked up 160 million yuan in the first three days after its release late last month, and has surpassed 400 million yuan as of last Friday, making it the best grossing thriller ever in China.
Even after almost three weeks since it began screening, viewers are still complaining that they find it hard to get tickets.
The movie has also turned real ‘haunted’ houses across China into tourism spots. People are flooding into the so-called haunted mansions in Beijing and Foshan, looking for spine-tingling adventures.
The haunted mansion that inspired the film is located at 81 Chaoyangmen Inner Street in the heart of Beijing city. The three-storey house is said to be haunted by the ghost of a Kuomintang official’s mistress who committed suicide after the Communist Party took over the mainland in 1949.
Indeed, the ghost is so scary that the owners have not been able to sell the building despite soaring property prices and demand in the area.
Following the film’s release, up to 500 people per day were visiting the abandoned house built in 1910. The owner has no choice but to close the mansion for some periods during the weekend to keep people from flocking to the house.
Now, apart from this mansion, adventure-seekers are also traveling to other ‘ghost houses’ across China. One such haunted facility is in Foshan, where some brave visitors even stayed overnight in the house.
Some film critics have said the latest hit movie does not show much creativity in the thriller genre. To put it simply, the film producer has only injected 3D element into a classic ghost story, they say.
Even so, its box office collections are now almost close to those of the two summer megahits — ‘Tiny Times 3’ and ‘The Continent’.
So, what explains the success?
Manfred Wong, the Hong Kong-based producer of the thriller, told the media that “sometimes, it is a matter of luck for a film to be successful”.
That’s true. The main actor of the film, Francis Ng, is a well-known Hong Kong actor who often played the role of a triad member. But he was not very popular in the mainland.
“When we first chose him to be our leading actor, all we considered is whether he has the ability to handle the character,” Wong said.
Later, Ng agreed to join the reality show ‘Dad, where are we going’ in its new season, along with his son Feynman. The duo has now become so popular that their names are key search words on the Baidu platform.
And, how crazy the fans can get! A mother took her two daughters to the cinema to enjoy the film. Responding to a questionnaire sent out afterwards, the lady wrote that the reason why she watched the film was because she wanted to give Feynman money for toys.
As for ‘The house that never dies’, a well-edited movie trailer helped a lot. But the main thing is that the distributor took the right route to launch and market the thriller.
Because of the budget, its publicity is incomparable with ‘Tiny Times 3′, both on traditional media and new media such as Weibo. However, the haunted house movie focused more on promoting the product on mobile platforms, a strategy which proved spot on.
The film was promoted on nearly 30 apps at the same time. The apps fall under five main categories, namely social media, learning & reading, tools, multimedia and lifestyle.
For example, the film has worked with Youdao dictionary app. When users opened the app, the first page was the introduction of the thriller in both Chinese and English.
Users of all those apps are usually young people, who happen to be the target audience for the movie. It has been claimed that the apps covered 400 million users in total.
The thriller’s standout performance shows that big-screen-product makers cannot afford to ignore small screens (smartphones and tablets) in their marketing and promotion efforts. It is also the same case with regard to merchandisers.
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