MUBI Podcast

China Builds Itself a “Dream Factory”

July 08, 2021 MUBI Season 1 Episode 6
MUBI Podcast
China Builds Itself a “Dream Factory”
Show Notes Transcript

China’s Lunar New Year movie season is like America’s summer blockbuster season… on steroids.  And it got that way thanks to The Dream Factory — a wry 1997 comedy directed by Feng Xiaogang, who’d come to be known as “the Chinese Spielberg.”  Host Rico Gagliano gets a crash course on the movie from experts on Chinese cinema, including City University of New York’s Ying Zhu and UCLA’s Michael Berry.

Our first season, titled “Lost in Translation,” spotlights movies that were massive cultural phenomena in one country, but nowhere else. With episodes spanning nearly every continent, tune in weekly to discover unique film stories from around the globe.

Each episode, we publish a complementary piece in a new series called “MUBI Podcast Expanded.” This week, we have an article by film professor Ying Zhu, building on her commentary featured in this episode about Feng Xiaogang's The Dream Factory and Chinese New Year comedies. Read the article here.

MUBI is a global streaming service, production company and film distributor. A place to discover and watch beautiful, interesting, incredible films. A new hand-picked film arrives on MUBI, every single day. From iconic directors, to emerging auteurs. All carefully chosen by MUBI’s curators.

[Rico Gagliano] Heads up. As usual, this show includes spoilers. [Murmured, indistinct conversation] [Rico] You may recall, in the first episode of the season, I told you a story about one of my trips to the Netherlands. So, it seems fitting, for this last episode of the season, to tell you another one. [Projector whirs, orchestral music] [Rico] It was, I think, 2003. I'd been in Amsterdam for a couple of weeks and, like you sometimes do as a tourist, I needed a break from feeling like a foreigner. So, I popped into the city's film museum to watch a flick where everyone spoke English, the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup. [Margaret Dumont] Oh, your excellency! We've been expecting you. [Rico] If you've seen it, you know the first scene is Groucho Marx firing off one-liners at his favorite straight woman, Margaret Dumont. [Groucho Marx] Never mind that stuff, take a card. [Margaret Dumont] Card? What'll I do with the card? [Groucho Marx] You can keep it, I've got 51 left. Now, what were you saying? [Rico] It's still so great. In my seat at the back of the theater, I was cracking up. But self-consciously, because none of the Dutchman around me were laughing. Smiling, but not laughing. And it didn't take long to figure out why. Groucho's gags were practically all puns, peppered with American slang and innuendo. [Margaret Dumont] Because I feel you are the most able statesman in all Freedonia. [Groucho Marx] Well, that covers a lot of ground. Say, you cover a lot of ground yourself. You better beat it. I hear they're going to tear you down and put up an office building where you're standing. You can leave in a taxi. If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff. You know you have to stop talking since I came here? You must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle. [Rico] Now, Amsterdammers speak great English, but this stuff is almost too dense for me to keep up with. Dutch folks were smiling, 'cause they could sense Groucho was saying funny things, but what exactly did those things mean? Then, of course, when the silent, clownish Harpo Marx appeared... [Bike horn] ..wordlessly miming a phone conversation using bike horns... [Bike horn] ..the audience fell to pieces. Slapstick is the universal language. [Bike horn] [Groucho Marx] You know, I'd be lost without a telephone. [Projector stops, winds down] [Rico] Now, why am I telling you this story? Because I've never felt more like that Dutch audience than when I watched a 1997 Chinese comedy from the director Feng Xiaogang, called The Dream Factory. [Man speaks Mandarin, animatedly] [Rico] There were moments of physical comedy I totally got. [Man exclaims, speaks Mandarin] [Rico] But those were quickly followed by dry ironic dialogue. [Man, woman converse in Mandarin] And I couldn't quite figure out the irony. There were obvious historical references, but I didn't know the history. And then, at the end, there's a melodramatic turn and characters started weeping. Was that sincere or part of the joke? [Laidback instrumental music] It felt like a puzzle, but one it seemed really important to figure out, because, in 1997, The Dream Factory Was such a hit in China, it changed the country's entire movie industry. And whether you're aware of it or not, the global movie industry along with it. [Music continues] I'm Rico Gagliano and from the curated streaming service MUBI, welcome back to the MUBI Podcast. MUBI is the best place to see beautiful, hand-picked cinema from around the globe. On this show, we tell you the stories behind those films and any other movies with stories worth telling. This first season we've been calling Lost In Translation. Every week, we learn about a different international culture through the lens of a movie they loved, specifically a film that was a huge phenomenon in just that one country. And The Dream Factory was huge, not just in terms of the money it made, which was pretty big for the time. But for the mark it left on the culture. [Michael Berry] There's a couple of rituals that are associated with the Chinese New Year. But, starting after 1997, a new ritual emerged, which was the whole family goes to the theater and watches the new Feng Xiaogang film. [Rico] That's UCLA professor Michael Berry, and he's one of several people I talked to, to figure out how this, to me, inscrutable flick made holiday movie going as important in China as giving holiday presents and created a blockbuster movie season that easily rivals Hollywood's. So, listen up, because we're going to try to translate The Dream Factory. [Music continues] [Music concludes, resonates] [Rico] Simply put, The Dream Factory is a droll comedy, but it was born out of a kind of financial desperation. And to understand why requires a quick history lesson. Let me take you back to June 30th 1997. [Man shouts in Mandarin] [Rico] That's the day Britain officially handed over its former colony Hong Kong to the Government of mainland China. [Band plays "God Save The Queen"] At the ceremony in Hong Kong, while Prince Charles himself looked on, the Union Jack came down, and the Chinese flag went up. And it's hard to remember now, but there was a lot of hope. China had been opening its doors to the world. It had introduced market forces into its economy that seemed to be lifting millions of its people out of poverty. And there was a sense that democratic Hong Kong might actually make Mainland China less authoritarian instead of the reverse. For a lot of people, it was an exciting time. [Music continues] [Music concludes, applause] [Rico] But if you were in mainland China's movie industry, it was maybe not so exciting. [Ying Zhu] China's film market was shrinking by the early 1990s, losing out to TV and video markets and also other alternative entertainment options. [Rico] That's Ying Zhu speaking to me from Hong Kong. She teaches film at the City University of New York and her new book's called Hollywood in China. [Ying Zhu] You know, in the US, too, in the 1950s, we had all of a sudden this onslaught of television, so that came much later, decades later, threatening the livelihood of the Chinese film industry in the 1990s. [Rico] What's more, China's film industry was having a hard time with the new market style economy. Before, film workers had what folks called iron rice bowl jobs - they got paid by the state, no matter how well their movies did. But now they were expected to start turning some profits and people just weren't paying to see domestic movies. [Ying Zhu] And so the money-strapped studios kind of were compelled to adopt a number of measures, including downsizing, to try to turn the profits around. And several entrepreneurial studios even ventured into restaurant and discotheque business. [Rico] And when that didn't work, state regulators did what had been unthinkable. In exchange for a cut of the profits, they started importing Hollywood films. [Ying Zhu] So, Hollywood was banned, starting from 1950s all the way to actually mid-1990s. So, we're talking about several decades without any Hollywood films in China. So, this is the time when Hollywood's allowed to re-enter China and Hollywood quickly resuscitates the Chinese market but also quickly overtook the Chinese market. [Rico] For Chinese studios, it was a perfect economic storm. Competition from TV and video, fewer government subsidies, and now audiences flocking more and more to see these Hollywood blockbusters and even less to domestic flicks. [Ying Zhu] Which, together, decimated domestic productions and revenues. So, the depressed market for domestic pictures demanded drastic measures. [Rico] And, for ideas, the industry started looking to the way more successful movie industry right next door, in its new sister state of Hong Kong. [Man speaks Cantonese] This is a scene from Security Unlimited, a 1981 flick from Hong Kong comedy legends the Hui Brothers. In it, two dim-witted security guards know a big gang of bad guys are hiding behind the door, so the guards try to make it sound like they've got an army of cops backing them up. [Man shouts in Cantonese; Rousing music] [Rico] Which is hilarious, because the door is made of rice paper and the bad guys on the other side can see exactly what the guards are doing. [Shouting, music continue] [Rico] Since the early '80s, and even before, Hong Kong's film industry had been releasing family-friendly action comedies just like this, all at a certain time of year. [Michael Berry] It's the Lunar New Year, sometimes referred to as Spring Festival, which usually occurs sometime around late February, early March. The date varies from year to year. [Rico] That's Michael Berry again, in addition to being a professor, he's director of UCLA's Center for Chinese Studies. [Michael Berry] That's where the whole country goes on vacation, everybody packs up and returns to their ancestral or familial homes. Starting in the '80s, you really see the commercialization of that timeframe and more and more production companies are very consciously marketing their films to be rolled out specifically during that timeframe, to maximize their profits essentially. [Rico] Now in the US, we're used to this sort of seasonal marketing, right? Studios release their crowd-pleasing features around summer and Christmas vacations. But Ying Zhu says, unlike Hong Kong... [Shouting continues, music concludes] [Rico] ..Mainland China didn't have a blockbuster movie season. [Ying Zhu] In fact, actually, cinemas in mainland China used to close down for the Lunar New Year week. So, if you can imagine that, once upon a time. [Rico] But in 1995, China's industry got its first inkling that maybe it'd make sense to keep theaters open that time of year. [Ying Zhu] The first Hong Kong film that entered the Chinese market announced itself as a New Years film, came out in 1995. So, that is Jackie Chang's now-famous Rumble in the Bronx. [Blow lands, grunting] [Jackie Chan] What's up? You got a problem? [Rico] Yeah, if you were young in '95, you likely remember Rumble in the Bronx. After years of cult success outside Hong Kong, it was the movie that made Jackie Chan, a global action-comedy sensation. [Man] So, you're a tough guy, huh? [Blows land, grunting] [Rico] And mainland China was no different. The movie made more than any imported film in Chinese history, more even than Hollywood flicks. [Ying Zhu] It was billed as a New Year celebration film when it was released in China, so this is actually the first time the Chinese film industry kind of realizes, "Oh, so there is a such a notion of timing the film release "with a certain period to maximize box office receipts." [Rico] And that's when two Chinese industry players sat down to do exactly that. The result would be The Dream Factory. [Michael Berry] You know, it was an elaborate series of discussions that led to that. The film The Dream Factory was produced by Beijing Film Studio, which is one of the state-owned film studios, and one of these private companies, called Beijing Forbidden City Studio. And so these two kind of mega players in the industry started to have a series of meetings about creating a hsu pin or New Year's film model. [Rico] On the docket, not just how and when to release China's first home-grown New Year film, but also what the plot of the film should be. It had to be something that would appeal to all the demographics in China's enormous audience, [Michael Berry] They're actually having extensive meetings about what kind of film is going to work. They're actually bringing in investors to these meetings, not just creatives. Usually, if you have, say, a screenwriting room, it's all screenwriters that are all discussing these works. In this case, you had investors in the room, you had the head of a theater chain that was invited to participate in there. [Rico] Oh, man, like it's not bad enough for screenwriters just having to deal with, you know, executive producers, now, you've got the investors sitting in the room with you as you're trying to come up with a story idea? Is it, like, that early in the process? [Michael Berry] Yes. And so they had investors, they had the head of a theater chain. I've read that, at one point, they even had, they invited a ticket seller from one of the big movie chains to come and give her input just about what kind of films would be successful, [Rico] Like, the person sitting in the box office? [Michael Berry] Yes. [Rico] That's a big deal for her! [Michael Berry] Yeah! [Laidback instrumental music] [Rico] Eventually, all these folks came up with a single consensus concept, one designed to acknowledge many people's anxieties about the new market style economy. Mainland China's first New Year film, they decided, should be a comedy about unemployed factory workers looking for a job. And the studio decided the best guy to turn that elevator pitch into an actual movie was a young TV director named Feng Xiaogang. [Music continues] [Michael Berry] Feng had actually been quite active, not only as a director, but even more so as a screenwriter, and had gotten a lot of accolades for his snappy and witty comedy and works like A Beijinger in New York. I actually was in China as a foreign student when A Beijinger in New York was first premiered and, if you've ever been to China, you know how crowded that country is. And every night when that series played on TV, the streets were empty, because everyone was at home, with their eyes glued to the television set. [Rico] Now, Beijinger in New York was unusual for Feng at the time. It was a bleak drama. But even his TV comedies were pretty edgy. They were sarcastic social satire, sometimes written with another famous satirist, one of China's best-selling novelists, Wang Shuo. [Ying Zhu] Wang Shuo, his long-term collaborator, his novels, his writings, very much captured this kind of urban disillusionment in China, and particularly in Beijing. Some of his novels are called hooligan literature by the more high-minded critics. [Rico] And I gotta say, as a Westerner, the fact that he's so popular surprises me, because I would figure the Chinese government would suppress artists who would dare to say that there's urban disillusionment, or who are critical of society at all. [Ying Zhu] He's not really politically provocative, he's not advocating... He's just satirising the things that he doesn't, you know, like. You know, some of his writings are politically provocative, but not all of them. [Rico] And, actually, the sense I get is this is why Feng Xiaogang and Wang Shuo were so successful. These guys were really good at skewering the crazy contradictions and problems in Chinese society, but with just enough hip detachment that it didn't feel threatening to censors. And that was the magic touch the studio's wanted for The Dream Factory. [Music continues] The movie Feng eventually made contains the germ of the studio's elevator pitch. It is about unemployed workers, but with a twist that comes straight from one of one Wang Shuo's short stories. The main character, named Yao Yuan, lays it out in voiceover right during the opening credits. [Man speaks Mandarin] [Rico] Yao says he's an actor with, quote, "Little chance to act," and that he's joined forces with a screenwriter, an assistant director and a prop maker - all also unemployed - to launch a new company in Beijing that provides a valuable service... [Man speaks Mandarin] [Rico] ..To help people briefly experience the life they dream of. [Michael Berry] And then the heart of the film is really made up of a series of vignettes, in which various people from all walks of life knock on the door of this company and they want, they all each have their own dream and so, you know, you have a book store owner who wants to be Patton, the iconic military general. [Man speaks in Mandarin] [Engine revs, rousing orchestral music] [Michael Berry] So, they create this elaborate war-film-type set, for him to be Patton for a day. [Indistinct radio chatter] [Michael Berry] You have a cook who can't keep a secret and so he arranges for a medieval Chinese torture session, so he can learn about loyalty and heroism and how to keep a secret. And there's about seven of these vignettes that make up the film. And each one is basically the wish fulfillment of people from all different walks of life in Chinese society. [Rico] So, are you getting it? Feng Xiaogang, who was asked to rescue a floundering Chinese movie industry that had been laying off film people made a movie about laid-off film people, who do what film people do... [Indistinct shouting] [Rico] ..Create dream worlds. [Ying Zhu] Oh, absolutely. This is like... It's like meta cinema. It is a film about the survival, the livelihood of the film industry. [Rico] And Ying Zhu says it's also a sly commentary about the way movies tend to warp our idea of what to expect from reality, our ability to discern big screen dreams from actual life. Take that vignette about the cook who wants to keep a secret under torture, and who, by the way, totally reveals his secret within, like, five seconds, along with other terrible secrets, like the fact that he puts MSG in his food. [Water splashes, man shouts in Mandarin] [Ying Zhu] This is one of the most frequent tropes in Chinese films during Mao's era, which depicts the pioneering revolutionaries. So you will have these heroes and heroines who are captured by the enemies, right? They are put through all this torture, and they're supposed to reveal, you know, secrets. And, of course, these heroes and heroines, they never really budge under these kind of physical torments. So, the joke really is, okay, are these heroes real? Can you really sustain this kind of physical torture? That's the joke. Are they real? Is that possible? [Man shouts in Mandarin] [Rico] This movie says, "Not really." Which, at a moment when China was trying to move on from its Maoist past, feels like a statement, right? That whole revolutionary myth was kind of an impossible dream. [Man shouts in Mandarin] [Rico] But then what, according to this film, is a sensible dream? [Maggie Lee] The real dream, the most relevant dream that the Chinese people had was having a place of their own, you know, having an apartment. [Rico] That's Maggie Lee. She is the Chief Asia Film Critic for Variety. And she says, in the old days, workers were often given housing attached to state-owned factories where they worked. But, in the new economy, the government was shutting those factories down. [Maggie Lee] So, once the factories closed, the dormitories were also kind of, like, torn down and resold to develop property. So, like, finding your own place to stay and owning your own home became, like, a thing, literally, [Rico] Which makes the film's climax, that sudden turn from cool comedy to bittersweet weepy, that puzzled me when I first watched this flick, make a lot more sense. [Man speaks Mandarin] [Man sniffs, speaks Mandarin] [Rico] In that vignette, the movie's main characters come upon a guy crying in a hospital waiting room, and learn his wife is dying of cancer. [Man sniffs, speaks Mandarin] [Rico] The doctor has told them to just make her last days comfortable at home. But the couple haven't been able to find a home together. He lives apart from her, in a dorm room, with roommates. [Men speak Mandarin] [Rico] You can probably guess what our heroes do. [Maggie Lee] The film starts with lots of, you know, deliberately unrealistic fantasies that they were creating for their clients. But at the end, the greatest service that they could provide in this film was to actually give them a home. And I think that's the real dream. That's a dream at the end of the film. [Laidback instrumental music] [Rico] So, here was a movie that seemed to have everything - goofy comedy, sharp satire, nostalgic movie references, touching message about what's important in life. There's also a love story in there. It was designed to be a hit. [Music continues] And it was that and a lot more. The Dream Factory changes China's whole film paradigm, coming up in just a minute, stay with us. [Music continues] [Music concludes, resonates] [Rico] MUBI is a curated streaming service, production company and film distributor, a place to discover, discuss and celebrate beautiful cinema. Every day, MUBI premieres a new film, each one thoughtfully hand-picked by our team of curators. From brand-new work by emerging film-makers to masterpieces by cinema's greatest icons, there is always something new to uncover on the platform. Throughout this first season of the podcast, our online film magazine Notebook is publishing a complementary piece alongside each episode, in a series called MUBI Podcast Expanded. This week, we have an article by Film Professor Ying Zhu, building on her commentary featured in this episode about The Dream Factory, and about Chinese New Year films. So, finish this episode, then check out Ying Zhu's article on the Notebook at MUBI.com/notebook. And, of course, to stream the best of cinema, just head over to MUBI.com to start watching. [Laidback instrumental music] [Rico] So, it's 1997. The Dream Factory, China's first holiday season film, is about to come out and, according to Michael Berry, Feng Xiaogang was pretty sure this was going to be something special. [Michael Berry] This was the first film in Chinese film history where the director did not take a flat fee for his directing job and instead negotiated share of the profits from the box office. So, that also kind of speaks to the faith that he and the producers had that this would be, you know, a massive hit, [Rico] Which on first blush, I have to say, showed a lot of cojones. Because remember how hard it was for me to sort of understand this film? Turns out... [Music stops] ..it wasn't necessarily easy for a lot of Chinese people either. See, according to Variety's Maggie Lee, The Dream Factory wasn't like the holiday comedies Hong Kong had been releasing for years. [Maggie Lee] With the Hong Kong, like, Lunar New Year films, there's actually a lot more slapstick. And the reason for that is because Hong Kong is a very international film market and they make a lot of their money by selling these films all over the world. Like, you know, to Asian countries, as well as to sort of Chinese-speaking communities in North and sometimes even South America. So, that's why they were actually probably very calculating, doing a lot of slapstick. [Rico] Hong Kong, in other words, had been going the Harpo Marx route - everybody speaks slapstick - while The Dream Factory is full-on Groucho, [Maggie Lee] What was so unique about Feng Xiaogang's style, throughout his whole career, is that he's a born and bred Beijinger. And the Mandarin that people speak in his films often used Beijing dialect, which is actually quite different from Putonghua, which is like the official standard Chinese that everybody in China can understand. They're rolling the tongue so much, that, unless you're a northerner, like, if you were someone from Taiwan, they wouldn't be able to, like, hear everything clearly. And his humor is extremely northern style. He makes all sorts of references not just to, like, the topical things in China, but also very Beijing local things, which, you know, I regret to say, I don't even get so much. [Rico] But then this brings up the obvious question, which is how did these movies become such gigantic hits? If they're so specific that, you know, sometimes people can't even understand what's being said? [Maggie Lee] Because, in China, all the films come with English and Chinese subtitles. [Rico] Oh, wow. [Maggie Lee] And that's why Chinese people, people in China, are much more open to foreign films, than, say, Americans, because they grew up watching everything on subtitles. [Rico] So, it'd be almost like if, in America, if a movie was made in the south, and you had it sort of subtitled in, like, Standard English. Something like that. [Maggie Lee] Yeah, that's exactly what it is. [Rico laughs] [Rico] But people still got it. The jokes, I guess, still translated? [Maggie Lee] Well, I think, first of all, it's about how you watch a movie. It's like viewing habits and what people expect from a movie, because I think, for Hollywood movies, for American audiences, comedy is something that you have to laugh out loud. But for Feng Xiaogang's films, they're never films that you watch and you laugh out loud. It's more like, you know, the situation is kind of, you know, somewhere between reality and ridiculous and the characters are kind of memorable, in the sense that they're kind of interesting people. So, that's the kind of humor that he sells and I think the Chinese audience is okay with that. [Laidback instrumental music] [Rico] Yeah, starting with The Dream Factory, it was pretty clear audiences were more than okay... with Feng Xiaogang movies. [Music continues] [Michael Berry] You know, I think the box office in China was about 30 million RMB, which, at the time, was a massive success. Since that time, of course, box office numbers have exponentially increased and they break their own records every...not even every year, but every couple of months. But this is really kind of a forbear of what is to come and Feng Xiaogang, once that transition takes place, Feng Xiaogang is very much riding that wave and making a series of films that are, one after another, more and more popular, more and more successful. [Rico] That is an understatement. After The Dream Factory, Feng became the king of the holiday movie, churning out annual hits that earn more and more cash. In and outside China, he's often called the Chinese Spielberg. [Michael Berry] Actually, around that time, I was probably in grad school in New York at Columbia University and I distinctly remember, every Chinese New Year, the Chinese Student and Scholars Association would rent out one of the largest halls on the Columbia campus and the big event of the night was screening the new Feng Xiaogang film. And so I distinctly remember when Be There Or Be Square came out, I guess it was probably 1998. It was packed. I mean, thousands of students. There wasn't an empty room in the theater. People sitting on the hallway, you know, on the stairs, in the aisles. Standing room only. But, even for overseas Chinese students, during that period in the early '90s, Feng Xiaogang's films helped create a sense of community, a sense of home and watching those films, I think, really soothed a lot of lonely hearts. [Music continues] [Music stops] [Rico] And actually, Feng probably would have loved the idea of people crowding into a New York theater to watch his films. Because, for a guy whose movies are so rooted in hyper-local language and themes and jokes, he's spent a lot of his career trying to expand his audience beyond China's borders...to the West. [Donald Sutherland] Chinese Imperial Palace. Two colors, red and gold, red walls, gold rooms. [Rico] This is a scene from Feng's 2001 film Big Shot's Funeral. It's about an American director in China, trying to remake Bernardo Bertolucci's Oscar-winning movie The Last Emperor. Playing the director, none other than Donald Sutherland. [Donald Sutherland] You see, when Bertolucci made his film about the Emperor, he empathized with the guy, treated him like he was an ordinary human being. But mostly I think he did it because he knew that that angle would appeal to Western audiences and pretty much guarantee the film's success. You know, make money? [Rico] Sutherland's character wants to try and break down preconceptions between cultures by showing China's final Emperor the way Chinese people see him. It's a theme dear to Feng's heart. [Michael Berry] He's always been revisiting this relationship between China and the US through his films, more so than perhaps any other contemporary Chinese film-maker. I think the first film that he ever wrote the screenplay for was called Da Sa Ba, The Great Goodbye and that was about someone left behind in China after his spouse/girlfriend immigrated to America. And ever since that time, he's continually returned to America. So, A Beijinger in New York, shot on location in New York, Be There Or Be Square, shot on location in Los Angeles. He wants his films to go global. He wants audiences in America and Europe and in other markets to watch these films. [Donald Sutherland] Tragedy, tragedy. I just love you, kiddo. [Man speaks Mandarin] [Rico] But they've never quite broken through. And not, Berry says, just because of Feng's very Chinese sensibility. [Michael Berry] I think that's one barrier. The bigger barrier is simply that Chinese audiences are much more open to international films. You look at the top 10 films at the Chinese box office, over the last 10 or 20 years, and you will see an inundation of international or non-Chinese films. Look at America, look at the American box office over the last 20 years and the top 10. It's quite a rarity to see even one of those be a non-English language film. [Rico] But here's the thing. Increasingly, for Chinese film-makers, there may be no point in bothering to crack the overseas market. Because Mainland China, especially during the holiday film season that The Dream Factory inaugurated has become market enough. [Sombre instrumental music] Today, it loosely encompasses several weeks. It can start around Christmas time and goes through the Lunar New Year celebration itself. And the cash movies make after launching in that window is hard to overstate. [Michael Berry] Some of the big New Year's films that have performed very well can easily reach 400 million, 500 million, some even over 600 or 700 million US dollars in box office in the Chinese market. And what's phenomenal about that is what it means to the Hollywood enterprise in China because for a Hollywood film to make that kind of money, you know, we're talking about getting, once you start closing in on the so-called Billion Dollar Club, usually, for Hollywood, that means you're looking at Terminator or Avengers or big franchise films, with often 100 to $200 million budget to make these films. And they need not only the $200 million budget, but they need the global market to do that kind of business. They need China, they need Europe, they need Southeast Asia, they need all of these different markets. China can do that kind of business and make those kind of numbers, say, with a $20 million budget. And they do that with one market - the China market. [Music continues] [Rico] This year, a New Year movie called The Eight Hundred grossed half a billion dollars in China, in six days. The biggest box office hit in the world so far this year, over $820 million, is another New Year film, called Hi, Mom. In March, it blew past Wonder Woman to become the highest-grossing film ever made by a solo female director. Again, that's from ticket sales in China alone. [Laidback instrumental music] I started off this episode telling you I wanted to understand films like The Dream Factory, but I may never entirely understand. And the fact is, more and more, China doesn't really need me to. [Music continues] And that's the MUBI Podcast for this season. It has been my total privilege to tell you the stories of these international movies for the last few weeks. If this is the first episode you dipped into, go back and check out the ones that came before. We hit a movie from almost every continent and they're all mind-blowing, if I do say so myself. Also, be sure to follow us so you don't miss our second season, which we're brewing up for you as we speak. Expect more great stories about cool movies. Meanwhile, the MUBI Podcast is hosted, written and cut by me, Rico Gagliano. Jackson Musker is our booking producer. Our engineer was Andy Carson. Mastering by Steven Coln. Martin Austwick composed and performed the music. Thanks this week to Michael Ouyang, Zoe Zhang and especially Corrina Lesser. The show's executive produced by me, along with Jon Barrenechea, Efe Cakarel, Daniel Kasman and Michael Tacca for MUBI. Two last things - if you're digging the show, please leave us a five-star review wherever you listen. It'll make it easier for others to find this. Also tweet about us, Instagram about us, tell your pets about us. And to stream an ever-changing collection of carefully hand-picked films from iconic directors to emerging auteurs, subscribe to MUBI at MUBI.com. Have a great summer. I hope you get a chance to see the whole wide world in person as well as on screen. Bon voyage. [Music continues] [Music concludes, resonates]