The box office counterattack exceeded 2.3 billion, why did this blockbuster change from a "bad film" to a domestic light?

The box office counterattack exceeded 2.3 billion, why did this blockbuster change from a "bad film" to a domestic light?

On August 22, the box office of "Fengshen Part I" (hereinafter referred to as "Fengshen ") has reached 2.3 billion, and the final box office is expected to exceed 2.5 billion. From the perspective of numbers alone, it is not too bright, but "Feng Shen" from the beginning of the release of the question, to the current market recognition, the main creator among fans to gain love is very eye-catching, in the case of a very unfavorable start, it almost miraculously completed the reversal of word of mouth and box office.

Looking back at the current point in time, the quality of "Fengsheng" determines that its box office floor will not be too low, but the upper limit of a good movie depends on many factors that are difficult to control: the audience's taste preferences, publicity strategies, and timing and luck. The sum of these factors constitutes the fate of a movie, and from this point of view, although there are some twists and turns, "Fengsheng" is lucky in the end. Maybe it's that the domestic fantasy movies of previous years were too earth-shattering, or maybe it was the audience's aesthetic fatigue with beautifully packaged but hollow idols on the screen, in short, when there was such a domestic mythological epic film that had been prepared for nearly ten years, with a solid story and excellent production, although there were still many flaws, the classical temperament of "grinding a sword in ten years" behind the movie, and the efforts that almost seemed clumsy in this era were still received by the audience.

"Nobody cares"

Choosing the theme of "Romance of the Gods" to make a trilogy movie was very risky from the beginning. The first is its fantasy attribute, the fantasy genre is inherently more expensive than other movies, and the cost of shooting is very high, whether Chinese or foreign, there are countless lessons from the past. Secondly, it is a great challenge to condense the story volume of the "Romance of the Gods", which is 100 times long and more than 500,000 words, into a trilogy movie, and to make an adaptation that can resonate with a new generation of audiences.

The box office counterattack exceeded 2.3 billion, why did this blockbuster change from a "bad film" to a domestic light?

Throughout the ages, people in China and abroad love to read fantasy literature that can escape reality. However, in order to bring a fictional world full of fantasy creatures to the screen, the first thing to do is to pass the technical hurdle. The real popularity of modern fantasy movies actually began after the innovation of film visual effects technology brought by the "Lord of the Rings" series in the early 21st century, and the development time was not long. Secondly, most fantasy literature is extremely long, has many characters, has a complex setting of races and a grand and empty world view, it is difficult to explain it all in a two- or three-hour movie, and the narrative difficulty is higher than that of ordinary movies, making many movies break here.

The development time of domestic fantasy films is shorter and more fateful, and the fiasco of several big-budget fantasy films in previous years has quickly eroded the confidence of the market and the audience in this genre, and also exposed a key problem: there is a great lack of genre film directors who can control the fantasy genre in China.

However, although fantasy movies are difficult to make well, they still attract filmmakers and large companies to follow, because of their high-risk, high-reward characteristics, which is a challenge that is difficult to refuse, as Wuershan said in an interview with 36Kr: "The world's highest-grossing movies are fantasy genres, but most of them are not made by Chinese themselves, so why can't we make this kind of movie?" ”

The box office counterattack exceeded 2.3 billion, why did this blockbuster change from a "bad film" to a domestic light?

For Wuershan, wanting to shoot "Fengsheng" is not just to fill the gap in the fantasy genre in China. In his opinion, "Fengsheng" is more like a mythological epic film than a fantasy film: "I have always wanted to make a mythological epic film that belongs to Chinese myself. I believe that our national culture has developed to the current stage, and we should trace, refine and re-express our traditional culture. "Making a mythological epic film can use the story crystallization of a nation's common imagination to express a nation's views on the world and human nature." Filling this gap in Chinese films is what really means a lot to him.

Through "Painted Skin 2" and "Dragon Hunting", Wuershan is gradually accumulating the conditions for filming "Fengsheng": at the film level, he is gradually collecting the production experience of fantasy genre films, constantly meeting greater challenges and overcoming more technical problems; At the financing level, he is also accumulating his box office performance "capital", so that he can get enough trust from investors in the future to shoot such a risky project as "Feng Shen". Wu Ershan, who came from an advertising director, still has a pragmatic attitude towards film creation, especially for him who wants to make a good commercial blockbuster, so that the film can pass the review, have a good arrangement and box office revenue, and personal expression is equally important, he expressed this view in an interview with "People" as early as 2016: "You have to express your views in a way that others are willing to accept, rather than waiting for others to discover you." This creative attitude makes it easier for him to gain the confidence of investors.

The idea of filming the "Fengshen trilogy" was deeply imprinted in Wuershan's mind, and he only needed to wait for the right moment - this time came a little unexpectedly. In 2013, Wu Ershan broke his Achilles tendon while playing badminton, and when he lay at home for two months to recuperate, and when he had nothing to do, he reconsidered the matter of shooting "Fengshen". He pondered the possibility of adapting "Romance of the Gods" into a mythological epic on the screen, and felt that it was worth fighting.

The box office counterattack exceeded 2.3 billion, why did this blockbuster change from a "bad film" to a domestic light?

Nezha, Jiang Ziya and Yang Jian

When he began looking for financing for the "Fengshen series" in 2013, Wuershan said that it may take 8 to 10 years to complete the project, which is prohibitive for many capitalists, but this is the necessary time to solidly shoot an epic trilogy (this is still without taking into account force majeure factors such as the epidemic). In the end, Beijing Culture and Wuershan negotiated the project, and the film was officially launched in 2014.

From a lot of research and preparation in the early stages, to the back-to-back shooting of the trilogy, to the decision to use almost all new actors and the six-month actor training camp, Wuershan made many decisions when filming the "Fengshen series" that seemed very risky at the time and is now deeply rewarding, and these wonderful stories that are now repeatedly told during the promotion period only added more difficulty to this already daring project at the time.

Due to the interference of various unpredictable factors, "Fengshen "Fengsheng", which entered post-production in 2020, did not officially meet the audience until July 20, 2023. In fact, before that, the film had quietly appeared in the corner of the audience's eyes in various ways, but no one paid attention to these clues at that time, or rather, no one cared.

For example, in 2018, the first season of "Sound into People's Hearts" started, Ayunga became a popular player, if you wonder why he looks so strong, maybe because he just came out of the extremely difficult actor training camp of the "Fengsheng" series, and he later sang the ending song for "Fengshen "; For example, in 2019, "Avengers 4: Endgame" was in the limelight in the global market, director Russo brothers came to China to promote the film, Wuershan hosted a forum to talk with them in Shanghai, during which they learned how to create a movie universe, and also communicated with them about the "Fengshen trilogy" they were making, but no one cared at that time; What's more interesting is that on the red carpet live broadcast of this year's Shanghai Film Festival, netizens were busy watching the "real appearance" of the traffic stars without retouching and the state comparison with the previous generation of stars such as Nicholas Tse, and they didn't care about these strange young men in the Wuershan crew, and no one could have imagined that this group of people would become the hottest rookie actor group in two months.

The filming is complete, which is only the first stage of the film. Although Wuershan and his team have laid a stable foundation, there are still many difficult battles in whether a film can be accepted by audiences in theaters. Just like the battle of Jizhou City at the beginning of the film, everything has not yet been decided, and the real battlefield has just begun.

Don't morally kidnap the audience, okay?

On Thursday, July 20, "Fengshen " was released tepidly, with a first-day scheduling rate of only 17.8%, and the pre-sales results were also quite sluggish. In the early days of its release, Maoyan Professional Edition's box office prediction for the film was only about 1.5 billion. If there is no comparison, 1.5 billion box office sounds like a good number, but for the "Fengsheng" trilogy, the box office of the first part needs to reach 3 billion to provide guarantee for the post-production of the last two sequels, and at the time, the box office was far from this goal, and the fate of the trilogy was very dangerous. The figure of "3 billion" is not for nothing: Wuershan once revealed in an interview that the production cost of the "Fengshen trilogy" is 2.4 billion, plus the publicity cost of 600 million, a total of 3 billion, with an average cost of 1 billion per film. Then according to the industry practice of "the box office reaches three times the cost to return the cost" to roughly calculate, each "Fengsheng" film needs to reach 3 billion box office to return the cost.

Correspondingly, the pre-publicity of "Fengshen " was quite unsmooth. First of all, the film does have some inherent disadvantages in terms of publicity: most of the film's starring actors are newcomers, and there is no star effect to take advantage of; Although director Wu Ershan has several masterpieces recognized by the market, it has been many years and the new generation of audiences is not familiar with it; More importantly, there is no successful precedent for "costume fantasy" or "mythological epic" blockbusters in China, and the audience's confidence in the large category of domestic fantasy films has long been completely destroyed by films such as "Turandot" and "Asura" in previous years, and the "tree" planted by the predecessors only left a bad start for "Fengsheng".

The box office counterattack exceeded 2.3 billion, why did this blockbuster change from a "bad film" to a domestic light?

What's more unfavorable is that the phrase "3 billion returns" has prematurely become a keyword bound to "Fengsheng". Especially when the audience does not understand the film itself and has low psychological expectations, this slightly pompous statement is very similar to the film's trick to lure the audience into buying tickets, which was questioned by many netizens: "Don't kidnap the audience morally?" Soon, there was a hot Weibo search topic of "if the director fails to repay the debt in 10 years", but it only had the opposite effect, further angering netizens, and some people asked: "Is the cost of publicity spent on selling miserably?" ”

The same number, now the audience who have seen the movie and been moved by it has changed their attitude by 180 degrees, counting the days and looking forward to the film reaching the estimated 2.5 billion as soon as possible, and even hitting the higher box office - just to see the second and third films as soon as possible. "3 billion returns" is no longer cold words, but the audience's hope that a good film will reap a box office that matches its quality. Even the nickname given to Wuershan by netizens has been fine-tuned from the original homophonic terrier "523" to the current "u23", just to not homonymize with "Wu two three (part)", to "u (have) 23".

The early publicity strategy for the film itself did not yield the desired effect. "China's Lord of the Rings" is another keyword that has long been bound to "Fengsheng", which also failed to bring positive publicity effects. In the case of domestic fantasy films "with a lot of history", a less anticipated new film wants to be compared with the monument of the fantasy epic world, which is a stupid touch of porcelain in the eyes of the outside world, making the quality of "Fengsheng" even more suspicious. As for the details and special effects of the service road emphasized by the early publicity, there is an inexplicable feeling of revealing its shortness - the effect of serving the road is still remarkable, but the special effects are one of the obvious shortcomings of the film.

The box office counterattack exceeded 2.3 billion, why did this blockbuster change from a "bad film" to a domestic light?

In fact, the relationship between the "Fengsheng" trilogy and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy should only be a learning reference from the former from the latter's production and management experience. A fantasy production of such a scale, and a film trilogy shot back-to-back, the most suitable object that the "Fengsheng" series can learn is probably only "The Lord of the Rings". In fact, the crew did invite Barry A. M. Osborne served as production consultant. Wuershan said in an interview that "Fengshen Trilogy" took 24 months of preparation and 18 months of filming, and it was a big problem to manage such a huge crew for such a long time: "The entire crew is unprecedentedly large, with more than 8,000 pre-shooting personnel, and more than 1,500 post-production visual effects personnel in the first part, so you see that nearly 10,000 people participated in "Fengshen "Fengshen on the final credits." Because the project was too long, some cast members had died, and some of the names shown at the end of the film were framed, and some people commented, "This is the True God List." ”

The miracle that the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide was not the result of careful planning from the top down, and the leading actors described it as "the largest independent film in history". What the "Fengshen Trilogy" trilogy should learn from it is precisely the almost independent film-like intention and sincerity at the production level. This is true, but in the early stages of the film's release, it was difficult to convey this to the audience through a thin promotional slogan.

On the other hand, domestic genre films led by "The Wandering Earth" have proved to Chinese audiences that domestic films have the potential to be not inferior to Hollywood blockbusters. In the past few years of the epidemic, the audience's taste has also undergone subtle changes, Hollywood commercial films no longer have a one-sided advantage, but have been cold in the mainland, domestic blockbusters of sufficient quality can get more and more attention, and domestic films no longer pursue to become the "Chinese version of "XXX". Therefore, "Feng Shen" cannot and should not become the "Chinese "Lord of the Rings", what it needs is to let the audience increase their understanding of the film itself, but how can people be interested in understanding?

"In the face of crisis, what really generates power"

At the lowest moment, "Feng Shen" fell into an embarrassing situation: it is by no means a bad film, Douban's score of 7.7 is not bad, and the film is more sophisticated than some domestic films that have a box office hit at the production and story level, but it seems to lack the explosive point to attract the audience into the theater.

Wu Ershan and the film publicity team are meeting and communicating every day for the film promotion strategy, although the early publicity effect is not ideal, but Wu Ershan is still very calm, he said in an interview with 36Kr: "Up to now, I don't think the box office of "Fengshen " has been finalized. We have been here for nine years, and I have to have a patience in these months of release, I think there is no problem, I have confidence in our work. ”

Indeed, the recovery of "Fengshen ", whether it is at the box office or the degree of discussion, is based on the quality of the film itself. The audience who watched the movie in the early stage generally had a good reputation, and gradually began to discuss the film itself. At the beginning of the second week of release, the publicity of the film quickly changed direction, not only discussing the character shaping of the film, the adaptation of the story and the values contained in the theme, but also discussing the handsome guys and beauties in the film, and discussing the temperament changes of the actors before and after the Fengshen training camp. The "tap water" of more and more audiences has promoted the topicality of "Fengshen ", and Daji like "Hakimi" (small animals) and the topless battle dance of the Proton Group have become hot topics on the Internet.

The box office counterattack exceeded 2.3 billion, why did this blockbuster change from a "bad film" to a domestic light?

At the story level, "Fengsheng" makes a rather bold adaptation of "Fengshen Romance". The relationship between the two groups of characters of Ji Fa father and son and Yin Jiao's father and son is the focus of Wu Ershan's most wanted to explore in the film, and he believes that it reflects the spiritual core that supports Chinese, which is ethics and family relationship. When Ji Fa finally decided to rebel against Yin Shou and ride the White Dragon Horse back to Xiqi, he had actually made a choice, he chose his "Dao", which was not the heroism of killing enemies bravely on the battlefield, but the heroism of adhering to goodness and justice. This theme conveyed by the film is also the truth that Wuershan has become more and more convinced in the process of making "Fengsheng", the project has experienced various twists and turns, but he still believes one thing, he said in an interview with "People": "In the face of crisis, what really produces power, not power, not weapons, not anger, not confrontation, is the most essential goodwill of people." ”

At the same time, the film's intensive roadshow publicity has gradually shown results. The first round of roadshow of "Fengsheng" is planned to arrange 29 cities, each city has 5 to 7 roadshows, from 2 pm to 11 pm, until August 14th. Such an intensive activity itinerary is intended to promote the landing and sinking of the film. In the era of information explosion, the distance between the main creators and the audience of movies has become closer than before. Every fan wants to actively participate in the promotion of the film, and even plan for the promotion of the film from the perspective of the audience. Many fans did not understand the necessity of such a variety of roadshow itineraries, and questioned why the film promoters did not arrange more live broadcast rooms and Douyin promotion.

The box office counterattack exceeded 2.3 billion, why did this blockbuster change from a "bad film" to a domestic light?

"Fengshen Part 1" Hohhot tour audience wore a "Fengsheng" themed skirt to confess the main creator

However, the roadshow, a seemingly traditional publicity strategy, played an important role in the promotion of "Fengsheng". Not only did the audience not understand what kind of movie it was, but the theater scheduling manager did not understand it, but after seeing the real feedback from the audience at the roadshow site, this gave them more confidence and won a better scheduling rate for the film. Urshan said: "The roadshow is very valuable, it is completely different from the premiere. The theatergoer has nothing to do with you, and feedback on whether he likes or dislikes is particularly valuable. "The starring actors come to various cities to run roadshows, which is also more convenient for them to do interviews with local media and promote the publicity of the film, which are often unknown to fans. At the end of the first round of roadshows, Fei Xiangfa sighed on Weibo: "We have arranged 5~7 sessions in each city, and we have to take the car to transfer + sign posters in the middle of each session, which is indeed very tiring... But I have been touring the country for many years, and it seems that I have been honed to adapt to it better than anyone. I especially like the after-viewing atmosphere in the theater, we are feeling the excitement and joy of the audience. ”

The film itself lacks stars, but in the process of being popular, the actors of Proton Group doubled in popularity and filled this shortcoming. Wu Ershan revealed that in the process of running the roadshow, young leading actors such as Yu Shi, Chen Muchi, and Na Ran have their own fan groups, and they will be surrounded by fans every time they take public transportation to run the roadshow, and they have to change their travel methods. There may be few movies whose starring team will become popular at such a speed in the middle of the release, and roadshows are no longer just a way for the filmmakers to publicize, but also become the only channel for fans to chase stars offline. The atmosphere of the roadshow in various cities became more and more enthusiastic, and fans brought online memes to offline play, such as exchanging "business words" with Fei Xiang, as if telling an internal joke.

When explaining the production ideas behind the scenes of the film, Wuershan once revealed that it was one of his boldest decisions to use a new team of people to play the starring role, but it was also forced by the situation. Due to the long preparation period of the film (the training camp alone takes six months), it became almost impossible to find a group of debuting professional actors of the right age, so the crew launched a newcomer and even amateur audition. After a long and solid training, these young people have been transformed into "Fengshen " teenagers who can personally act in action scenes, clear eyes and explosive performances, leaving the purest and most authentic performance and the most spirited state in the images of the "Fengshen trilogy". As Urshan said in an interview with 36Kr: "We train them to become that character, to become real warriors... Highly focused training, very self-disciplined life, strong emotional washing, this state is appropriate in the world of Fengsheng, there is the purity of the ancient spiritual world that we want to pursue, he cannot carry this hesitation, dodge and disguise of contemporary people. ”

The box office counterattack exceeded 2.3 billion, why did this blockbuster change from a "bad film" to a domestic light?

The training camp created by Wuershan not only trained actors suitable for the roles for his trilogy, but also sent a group of rare and refreshing new stars for internal entertainment, and it seems not surprising that they will become popular en masse. Several people led by Yu Shi have become the new "top stream" of domestic entertainment and have become frequent customers on hot searches. When the film was delayed in being released, this group of young actors was perhaps the most tormented, obviously having made a masterpiece but unable to meet the audience, and their careers were pressed the pause button before they could begin. In July last year, fans asked Yu Shi on the Internet when "Feng Shen" would be released, and Yu Shi replied: "If I don't go on it again, I will be old." ”

Now that the box office of "Feng Shen" has finally improved, these young people may also be the most excited, celebrating when the film's box office broke 2 billion, Yu Shi performed the embarrassing and fun "Dragon Absorbing Water", Chen Muchi danced in the God of Wealth pants, Hou Wenyuan released a funny breaststroke video...

Within two weeks after its release, the film released behind-the-scenes documentaries "Newcomer Acting Training Camp" and "The Road to Sealing Gods", which led to a small peak in the popularity of the film. In these behind-the-scenes documentaries, the audience can see all aspects of the film's concept design, script development, newcomer actor training, aesthetic style and industrial shooting, and feel the sincerity of the "Fengshen" crew in the production of the film more clearly and concretely. For fans who are in the first phase of "sealing gods", these behind-the-scenes documentaries are also "just needed" materials. "The Road to Sealing Gods" scored 9.1 points on Douban, and such a high score is obviously not only for the artistic value of the documentary, but people are moved by the attitude of this crew to polish the work. Some netizens commented: "The clips shot at the scene are very vivid, which makes people feel an inexplicable sense of participation. This is exactly the most "top" place in the later stage of the promotion of "Fengsheng", everyone has a sense of participation, and the tap water of fans and the hot topics set off by it have indeed influenced the direction of the film's publicity to a certain extent, which is very unusual.

The box office counterattack exceeded 2.3 billion, why did this blockbuster change from a "bad film" to a domestic light?

Fengshen Training Camp

On August 14, the last day of the roadshow, Wuershan unexpectedly announced that the film will have a second round of roadshows. The long-term battle of "Fengshen " in publicity has just ushered in a new stage, and the patience and perseverance of the main creators are admirable. On August 17, the film opened the first stop of the second round of roadshow in Beijing. Compared with the first round of roadshows, most of the people in the hall were ordinary audiences, and the second round of roadshow was squatted by fans early to keep the news, grabbing tickets at the speed of light, and the atmosphere in the hall was very different from before, and the audience and the main creator were like old acquaintances meeting each other, which was extremely enthusiastic. At the roadshow in Beijing, the audience even shouted directly to the director, hoping that the eleventh and Spring Festival files would be released in a row after the two sequels, jokingly asking the main creators to burst their livers and work overtime. Wuershan explained very seriously: "The late part of the first part was done for 3 years, and it must take time to get a better result. ”

Good film publicity is to let the audience form a correct understanding of the film. At the beginning of the release of "Fengshen ", or even before its release, people subconsciously thought that this was likely to be a bad film, and even the official Weibo adjusted the starring order was interpreted as "Huang Bo, Chen Kun and others 'escaped', this must be a shocking bad film", all the wind and grass were regarded as evidence of "this is really a bad film", becoming an unsolvable vicious circle; What the film has been trying to reverse in the early days of publicity is this cognitive misunderstanding. Nowadays, the reputation of the film has risen, and people have formed a certain degree of consensus: "Fengshen " is not a bad film, although there are flaws in the play and narrative, but this is still a relatively wonderful "Fengshen " theme adaptation movie, is a rare domestic mythological epic blockbuster. Now, the film's promotional materials almost only drive a positive cycle of discussion about the film, and the campaign has become somewhat more effective.

This is very rare. There are many movies that have a good reputation, but because of the lack of a tipping point for communication, they eventually do not get a box office proportional to the quality of the film and silently disappear into the market, which is normal. Movies don't always find an audience that fits them, and audiences don't always dig up treasures slowly. "Fengshen " does not seem to have caused a viral spread in the circle of friends or Douyin like the recent blockbusters "Disappearing Her" or "All or Nothing", and has not produced a miraculous box office turning point, but the audience who loves it is steadily increasing. Despite the crowd of good summer films, "Fengsheng" has survived the competition with the films of the same period, and the box office has slowly bucked the trend, which may be a small miracle created by the film's creators and fans and audiences this summer. 

Author | New Moon Edit | Produced by Jiang Yu | Tencent News Gu Yu Studio

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