When economic crises affect social certainties, or customs, the gap between economics and psychology is significantly reduced. Consumers need to become both rational with their spending, as well as optimistic that the crisis will be solved in a near future. In practice, this idea is best manifested through an increase in cinema theatre attendance and investments by the entertainment industry, because this quick-growing industry specializes in selling illusionistic goods. During the bad years of 2008-9, China shows how it is not exempt from this mechanism, as ques grew outside Shanghai’s and other big cities’ now numerous multiplexes. In 2008 alone, box office sales in the country reached $ 800 mln, placing China 10th in the ranking for the countries with the largest international cinema markets — which is still arguably low in relation to its size. The 1930s’ crises hosted both mass unemployment throughout the USA, as well as Hollywood’s greatest moment of success, for economic shortage can at least cover the cost of another –virtual– reality.
Crisis aside, China’s cinema industry had already been launched two decades ago, enjoying a 20% growth rate in the last five years; and is expected to reach a total revenue of $1.51 billion by the end of 2010. Although traditional movies haven’t been replaced due to their perpetual success, modern screenings are increasingly evident as well. These reflect China’s more contemporary society as one that is well-established and in a position for greater consumption. This is true on both domestic and foreign shows. From the beginning of this year to September, China enjoyed around twenty nationally-produced movies, with a total revenue of $1.14 billion. Internationally speaking, China benefited from box office hits like Avatar, Inception, Alice in Wonderland, and the Expendables which, altogether, mounted up to a significant $370 million. The country’s cinema exposure is now thus not only a propagandistic tool, but one for entertainment and profit. In fact, China’s show and entertainment industry is changing, attracting both inexperienced and long-sighted investors in a more promising, but riskier market. Private equity and venture capital investors were among the leading financiers at first, until national banks’ also began financing the sector in the last few years. China Merchants’ Bank, the Bank of Beijing and Shenzhen Development Bank are currently the three most active medium-sized institutions in the country’s cinematic field. Despite its late take-off, China’s movie industry is progressing rapidly.
Innovative tools are also giving way for new professional outputs to emerge. China is a ‘fast-learning’ nation, especially in business terms. Words like ‘location’ and ‘product placements’ are now common in China. For example in If You Are The One, a 2009 home box release, there is an extended shot focusing on China Merchants Banks’ newest credit card. The camera then shifts to capture the strong, optimistic and visionary expressions belonging to the protagonists in the story, and reflecting China as a whole. Trust is the primary message conveyed between the two characters as well as throughout the movies. And, ironically, this is the same message that banks seek to transmit in times of crises and beyond.