BOBO Leads a New Idol-Driven Movie Genre in China

Changed the pic above the cut because it was just so blindingly gold, and because why not?

Changed the pic above the cut because it was just so blindingly gold, and because why not?

It was only a matter of time before BOBO stepped up to the plate as employees of Hua Yi’s drama/film division and filmed something big together, but I would have thought it would be a drama, not a movie, an art-form usually reserved for the more skilled, and more bankable  of actors in China. And yet, BOBO will be the leads in the new heartwarming romantic comedy “Young Gods of Cookery” where they both play…you guessed it, chefs.


Idols vs Directors, a comparison of HK and mainland film

Back when I posted on director  Feng Xiaogang’s press conference I neglected to mention one particular part where he criticized the HK audience for not being a “director-focused” market, but rather idol-driven. The Chinese netizens, who usually love him, promptly dubbed him a snob. I thought he brought up a good issue even if he did sound like a pretentious jerk while saying it. Like the old musicians in China who see (and hate) the rapid changes in Chinese music, directors are beginning to feel the shifts in the film industry in China, as the growing market size allows for fluff pieces like “Fit Lover” or “Love Connected” to reap in big bucks in the mainland.

HK has been idol-driven market, with EEG indulging in movies with stars like Twins, Edison Chen, whereas China’s film stars, even when good-looking like Chen Kun, are not really idols, but seen as professionals. But those times are changing, with an interesting reversal of trends.

Now, with the deep mixing of HK and Chinese movie industries, wherein talent and investment from both sides collaborate on more and more movies, not only have the distinctions have blurred, but so have the characteristics of each industry.


BOBO with Taiwanese actress Pace Wu also in the film. She asked the boys if in the film it would be their first kiss. Jing Boran said no, his Grandma (she raised him) wouldn't allow such a thing.

While HK cinemaphiles bemoan the fact that Hk directors are catering toward the lucrative mainland market, and need to “adjust” their vision for the benefit of SARFT, aka China’s movie watchdog , this is only a temporary setback for Hong Kong, imo, since SARFT is more or less headed by old but influential people who will step down eventually. In the long run, I believe there is something very beneficial in the symbiosis of these two very different film industries. They can learn from each other’s strengths I think, rather than falling prey to each other’s weaknesses.

EEG handing over the baton to eeMedia?

Once prominent Hong Kong idol-film company EEG has already started to trim down the excess idol flicks, instead investing into more upscale features like Mei Lan Fang. I see less and less of Bug Me Not (a stinker starring Isabella Leung and Wilson Chen) type films coming from HK. In contrast China has begun branching out on their movies as well, going more and more commercial. eeMedia, whose new CEO Long Danni seems bent on developing an idol industry in China, with music (boyband Top Combine), drama (Meteor Shower) and movies (Le Huo Nan Hai) everything else, has announced a new branch diving into movies. Hua Yi seems to be joining them, with BOBO’s new movie.

I don’t want garbage coming out in theaters that bank on their idol stars to give the movie success, but I do want  different genres, like the benign teen comedies or romantic comedies to develop. I’d like people to get used to the idea of teens leading roles so that Central Academy of Drama graduates don’t have to wait until they’re thirty to get good roles. Hell, I’d settle for people getting used to the idea that really good-looking people can lead  a movie…because before Chinese movies portrayed a strict realism that didn’t allow for it.

Right now, there are a few Chinese directors who find newbies, like Zhang Yimou and Stephen Chow, but the directors are at the top of their game, and few. And sometimes, people like Zhang Yimou become nostalgic and start using people they admired in their youth…like Chow Yun-fat and Ken Takakura who are awesome, but won’t move the industry forward. Furthermore since many of the top directors are male, they place more emphasis on finding their actresses, leaving the male side to rot. Perhaps a new successful genre of film would allow for more people, not just those big-shots to take risks in finding new talent. China definitely seems ready to embrace these non-indie, non-serious films, with movies like Fit Lover and Love Connected becoming big hits.


Fu Xinbo is showing them the magic he decided to learn while waiting for Jing Boran to finish filming "A Tribute to Stephen Chow".

Young Gods of Cookery – What’s it About?

Now that your eyes have rolled into the back of your head from reading me blather on and on about trends in Chinese entertainment, and don’t even care about the film anymore… that’s of course  my cue to start actually talking about it.

Despite the fact that the duo are the leads, and the main selling point of this film, the crew couldn’t even remember their names in the beginning so they called them “daBO/big BO” and “xiaoBO/small BO”.

BOBO play long-lost brothers, one specializing in Western cuisine and the other in Eastern cuisine. “Xiao Bo” Jing Boran actually plays the older one specializing in Eastern cuisine, while “Da Bo” Fu Xinbo, playing someone half Taiwanese, is the one specializing in Western food, having studied in France. Jing Boran loves someone from a rich family fallen on hard times, and Fu Xinbo loves Jing Boran’s classmate, Xiao Mei but because of “complications” backs out of their wedding, leaving her distraught…eventually everything will tie up nicely and the two brothers will  find each other.


Completely cliched? Maybe. But Hua Yi doesn’t play around usually with their movies or dramas…in general they’re good. In fact, they have been the major financers of Feng Xiaogang’s movies and his recent movies features a lot of Hua Yi people. Hopefully if this company dives into the world of idol entertainment, and teen comedies, they’ll put in the same attentiveness and care that have characterized the majority of their works. I’ve liked the way they developed BOBO slowly (from a cameo to skits to their own respective dramas). This movie is the culmination of that effort and I’d like to see the pay off.


Guy in the middle: Don't worry boys...despite the shiny, similarly blinding surroundings, this won't be nearly as bad as that Curse of the Golden Flowers. Fu Xinbo: You know that particular movie also featured two long-lost siblings... Jing Boran: And that revelation didn't work out well for them.

Disclaimer: These are my opinions only, or my hopes…no need to treat them as scientific fact. Movie could be a horrible flop, BOBO could be kicked out of Hua Yi and become homeless, Feng Xiaogang will scoff at his partner Hua Yi’s attempt to makes movies with idols, etc.


Ahem…some behind the scenes action. Jing Boran sticks his tongue out at Fu Xinbo. Fu Xinbo goes to touch Boran’s mouth and proceeds to kick him in the behind. Boran laughs, running away. I love the fact that these boys don’t seem to have changed at all since before becoming celebs.

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25 thoughts on “BOBO Leads a New Idol-Driven Movie Genre in China

  1. I think that was me…I guess Billy commented twice and one of it got marked as spam. I was looking through the spam box the other day and approved it without checking to make sure if there already was another comment by him. Sorry for all the confusion.

  2. on the Billy thing, if you notice he just reposted the same comment, just with the 2nd one he added the PS. so maybe that’s why u r confused.

    As for me making generalizations, I guess that’s what’s difficult when commenting on a blog. it’s hard to have a really constructive conversation. Tone is missing, things aren’t clear, and things can be construed the wrong way. That’s why I don’t do it very often. I didn’t want to write a dissertation on your blog, making sure to write in all of the exception, just commenting back on the points you brought up. I know 100% everything isn’t realistic, everything isn’t always, sometimes isn’t all the time, and that one time isn’t all true.

    littering, just glad china is more conscience of it now.

    “The elderly can be the cleanest people in the world.” of course they can, heard about one to the point of OCD cleanliness. but that doesn’t negate the observation that I notice on a couple of reoccurring habits.
    On the money issue, I brought that up to say how hard it is to make money in china, that’s all.
    and people tend to generalize cuz they are ignorant on things, doesn’t help that the media perpetuates stereotypes cuz …. well, people do the same thing. It’s only frustrating cuz people tend to end the conversation early and don’t expand on things. don’t get frustrated, you have a blog, educate.

  3. @Billy Okay that creeps me out. Did someone hack into this site?

    @clowninpathos Er, I never meant to imply that rich people don’t litter and poor people do. At all. I meant to imply that as China gets richer as a whole people don’t litter as much because of 1) more of a sense of society as a whole (same reason developed countries have low birth rates 2) more resources such as trash cans and 3) government funding for promotion of this stuff, which is working incredibly well from what I’ve seen. And don’t be ageist. The elderly can be the cleanest people in the world. I knew one woman who would keep her house spotless and her grandchildren were all very, very tidy. And I knew well-off Shanghainese who were completely messy.

    I lived with girls that made only 700 RMB per month w/o any help from parents, and they were still able to dress well, better than me, and eat well. They bought food and snacks every single night and would eat them after dinner and in between meals, and I was just like, how do you eat so much? I think to generalize China as a society, it’s frustrating, because most Chinese Americans only go to a few places, and stay with relatives, and have no idea about the actual society. So I can probably try to guess trends in Chinese entertainment based on statistics, but to say anything more than generalizations on the society/work in China, no.

    Bottomline is there was hardly an entertainment market in China in ten years ago, and there is one now. In another ten years, it’ll be an even bigger market and you’ll again, probably be surprised at the changes that have taken place.

  4. yep, comparably to the prices there, 6000 RMB per month makes sense, just… it doesn’t seem that a lot of people have that type of salary… toooo many people, so little jobs. A friend has graduated from college, lives with her parents, is in her mid-20s, and only makes 1500 RMB per month, and that’s the most example’s I”ve heard….. but then again, I don’t know enough about the economy of china to really comment.

    yeah I was pretty glad on that front too. it being more clean that is…
    Shanghai (mom’s side of the family) was still dirty though cuz of the influx of “village / poor” people (looking for work) with some really bad habits, oh the horror stories I’ve heard, which I won’t be telling. (*cough* combine that with old people, you know what I’m talking about) I thinking it’s both that the “richer” people don’t litter anymore and that they have the street clean up crew everywhere also. There the ones in blue.

    Compare that to NanJing (dad’s side of the family), woh…. totally surprised that there was like no littering on the floor the last time I went back to visit… the government has gotten better on educating people. yeah, you’ll see the “No spitting sings” everywhere.

    guess staying in Shanghai for the most part might have screwed my PoV. and the fact that infrastructure still has a ways to go. China, It changes to the point of little recognition each time I go back, and yet some of it stay painful the same.

    hmmm, I guess the prices stay so high, cuz of the vast population to draw from that are willing to pay. and the lack of options. It’s not the Sales in the USA, it being a free, capitalist, competitive market.

    well if you want name brand electronics they’re still quiet expensive, more in China. But others, you can always get better deals, depends. A lot of the time friends ask to buy items in the USA to bring back to china, cuz it’s cheaper and well, less likely to be fake.

    “wo men zia fa zhang” I heard that so many times, there.

  5. The salary for the Chinese is pretty reasonable I think considering the cost of things over there. Actually, no you’re right, it’s slightly low now because everything in China has gotten way more expensive the past five years, but they tell me that’s due to the recession, and salaries will balance out soon.

    I was actually pleasantly surprised by the way littering and in general social graces has improved in China this time. I didn’t see anyone spit except for one person, and there were half trash/recycle bins all over the place especially at bus stops. And most of these bus stops were clean. The poverty/littering seems overwhelming simply due to the amount of people in China (Los Angeles/NYC is way dirtier IMO vs cities of comparable size in China). Although I definitely do agree, it does have some proportionality to the wealth of China – more wealth, more time for the government to focus on building trash cans, recycle bins, etc.

    So, I don’t think you can really tell how much purchasing power people have over there based on those superficial glances. People are still very willing to spend on entertainment. For example, my cousin just plunked down 1280 RMB to see Super Junior (I passed, and went for the cheaper 380 RMB ticketed seats to see a stage play around the same time because IMO SJ is not worth even 380). The electronics are more expensive in the US, but everyone had the best cellphones…mine was the worst of people I met in my age group.

    And the biggest indication I think of the potential of Chinese market size, is how much I needed to budget. If I go in another five years, things are going to be pretty much the same cost as in the US, and that’ll hurt my wallet, but it’ll mean that China’s market is even bigger. Like I said, there’s a reason why both JYP and SM’s newest groups all learned Chinese.

    Edit: Whoa – How are you able to edit your own comment Billy? I didn’t know people could do that.

  6. cfensi, ah thanks for replying back.

    hmmm, I guess that makes sense (although, 20 RMB seems more reasonable), since when it comes to the middle-class their salary is, what? 5000 – 7000 RMB per month? just didn’t know there were that many. The poverty seems to be overwhelming at times. then again, it could just be some really bad habits. littering for ex. & excessive pollution.

  7. @kale and clowninpathos…

    You’re misunderstanding me. I don’t mean to say that no one is building theaters in China. They are trust me they are, at a much rapider pace than elsewhere. It’s just that the number of Chinese that have gotten to a financial status where they can go see movies is growing so quickly, that the pace of cinema building can’t quite keep up. Feng Xiaogang is saying that the government needs to be even more proactive in helping build cinemas.

    People think that pirating is a big issue, but people need to understand that pirating has existed from 15 years ago in China, but the number of wealthy Chinese has gone up enormously. In fact pirating I would say has gone down in China…there are more regulations now.

    In regards to cinema prices…they do cost around 100 RMB, but discounts are easily obtained, such as with groups, etc to where the price becomes 20 RMB, a much more affordable price. Which is the price I paid when I went to see Red Cliff 2. You can also get yearly passes. I’m not sure how those work. The popcorn and other snacks are expensive too, but only because their size is so much smaller.

    Thanks for reading these posts everyone. Hopefully you find the way Chinese entertainment is changed by the growing market as interesting as I am. China is really the only country I see that can overtake the US in market-size with regard to entertainment.

  8. Count me in as another person who loves to read your analysis on China’s media industry.

    I really love these collaboration projects between China/HK & Taiwan. And I look forward to seeing more and more talented people working together.

    One thing I was wondering, are there any famous scriptwriters in China (HK & Taiwan as well)? For some reason it feels like the script often gets the least attention in the movie/drama-making process. In fact most of the better films and dramas that I’ve seen were often based on a novel.

    * * *

    RE: Film Quotas

    I guess I’m going to sound protectionist but I really would like to see HK implement a quota system.

    I feel that the people in HK (and to a lesser extent, Taiwan) have this negative perception of local films—and I even know several people who only watch Hollywood flicks. The long term impact of this isn’t just economical, but also cultural. Because if people have this impression that local films are all bad and fluff, then our arts will suffer in the long run with no one supporting it.

    But if they do implement a quota system, then the entire entertainment industry needs to change a little. They can’t just go for the quick profit and saturate the market with pointless, no-plot idol movies.

    Overall I’m happy to see that Chinese media is evolving.

  9. cfensi, just in case you think you “rambled on too much about some random analysis,” I personal think those type of article are sometimes more interesting than the regular news bits. Cuz you bring up info. I never knew before, how the culture or industry in China is / works. Main reason why I keep checking back to your blog, sets you apart from the “I’m just blogging about how fangirly I get over some idol(s).”

    I love informative stuff. Specially when I’m completely ignorant on the subject. Gives me context on how things work.

    Also Question…. been wondering this for a long time, and asking just in case you know, since you seem to know alot about this subject…. do you know how much a regular movie ticket goes in china? Was there a while ago, when “Curse of the Golden Flower” was in theaters, & a friend went to see it, told me the ticket prices ranged around 100 RMB.

    I upon hearing that, I was completely flooded! What?! That’s expensive, especially when the average, on the lower-end person makes only what? 1500 – 3000 RMB per month, that’s a lot to pay for just a movie ticket. My other friend told me it’s one of the reasons why so many chinese don’t buy snacks, cuz when you’re making that much-little money, after paying for essentials, not much money to buy other things.

    (holy crap, you should see the prices for some shampoos or even Haagen-Daas ice cream, who has the money to pay for that?)

    my chinese wasn’t proficient enough at the time to have a more comprehensive conversation at the time and then the moment passed, didn’t ask again on the specifics of “going to the movies” in china.

    oh-kay, sooo that was long tangent to ask….. are the movie tickets in China expensive for only the middle-class to go? or was the info I got wrong and it doesn’t hover around the 100 RMB range. cuz maybe that’s why there aren’t more movie theaters built, not enough people going… I’m just guessing.

    then again… I don’t think the bootlegging VCDs help either. just 5 RMB.

  10. psh. who needs brides when you have BOBO?

    I’m a bit worried about this movie simply because of the random girls who are not yet so awesome and not in Huayi… and the random not-so-famous Taiwanese director…

    and in the future, I really see collabs not just between the three regions, but between all Chinese-speaking areas. Ideally, actor/actresses would be cast based on their fit for the role, and not their place of origin. And to most Chinese audiences, place of origin isn’t that important as long as they speak Chinese and do a good job. Sort of like how Hollywood movies use British actors/actresses without really thinking, oh, they’re British.

  11. the top picture of Bobo is definitely more eye friendly, but having 2 of my fav. boys wearing groom outfits with that ‘intimate’ position made me think, where are the brides? I’m here..I’m here…haha.

    The lack of movie theaters in China has been the talks for years by people in the movie industries, I don’t know what hold them back from investing on these projects faster?
    If HK takes the same route as South Korea, HK will loose it’s reputation as the freest economy in the world IMO.
    thanks for the article cfensi.

  12. @green ice Thanks for leaving that comment because I felt sure while writing that people wanted more on the movie, and less commentary. Now I know at least one person read it, lol.

    HK is moving very, very close to China in the film-making department because they want the Chinese audience although they still of course retain differences. Taiwan and China haven’t mingled so much because there are more restrictions on Taiwanese imports due to cross strait relations, and Taiwan usually doesn’t do many commercial films anyway, which is why some of Taiwan’s best actors like Rene Liu, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Wilson Chen started careers in HK film circle after making it big. That seems to be changing a little, but I think it could change even further if Taiwan movies were given greater access to China’s market.

    I think there is so so much potential in China’s film industry and all Chinese-speaking regions should be able to benefit from that. Feng was right. There are simply not enough Chinese cinemas in China to meet demand. In cities of similar size in China, there may be only one theater whereas in the US there’s probably a dozen. As the number catches up to meet the demand, it’ll be quite extraordinary.

    While I was reviewing the stats for the box office for the holiday season, it was almost like every single movie released in China became a hit (well, apart from the Underdog Knight), certainly enough to make a decent profit. As China gets more theaters, there will continue to be a number of records broken.

    If You Are the One was good, but it was never proclaimed as Feng’s best film. And yet it made 300 million without too much promotion. It kind of shows how much people want to spend money on movie-going in China as a leisure activity, and so I wish China could make movies to meet such a demand.

    I’m waiting patiently for the day when China’s market surpasses the US. Before, this has never occurred with any country, and Japan’s market while the second largest, still is only about 1/3 to 1/2 of the US size and has already plateaued. China’s market potential is not even close to plateauing When China’s market because that big is the day when the entertainment center of the world will not soley be focused on the US or Western values.

    Hong Kong does seem to be very western-influenced. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes that’s bad. Maybe HK should install strict quotas like South Korea did to keep their movie industry more HK oriented.

  13. Just to clarify; while Singapore may have a majority ethnic Chinese population, English is by far the dominant language in the country. Only about a third of the population speak Mandarin at home. (That figure used to be lower, but Mandarin has been promoted at the expense of other Chinese dialects.)
    So, although Chinese Singaporeans will learn Mandarin at school, there are still varying degrees of fluency amongst them. Many, if living in China, would be classified as being illiterate. After all, how proficient can you get from sitting in a classroom?

  14. i just realized i have the same exact playing cards Fu xinbo was using lol. dat makes me happy :)

  15. considering that China/HK and Taiwan are the only countries that have a pre-dominantly Mandarin speaking population other than Singapore, Mandarin language film collabo will mainly be between these two countries – China/HK and Taiwan. I guess you can throw in Singapore as well but their movie industry isnt quite as well developed. I agree with Feng though. HK is a idol driven audience. They have the worst taste in movies sometimes. Sometimes, looking at the HK box office I get the feeling that they have this inferiority complex because they dont support local movies at all. its all hollywood…hollywood…hollywood. Atleast in Japan and Korea, domestic films take upwards of 40 percent of the BO. Not in HK. Domestic films probably take up less than 10 percent. Actually, I would call HK a Western-driven Box Office… and then an Idol drive one.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  16. considering that China/HK and Taiwan are the only countries that have a pre-dominantly Mandarin speaking population other than Singapore, Mandarin language film collabo will mainly be between these two countries – China/HK and Taiwan. I guess you can throw in Singapore as well but their movie industry isnt quite as well developed. I agree with Feng though. HK is a idol driven audience. They have the worst taste in movies sometimes. Sometimes, looking at the HK box office I get the feeling that they have this inferiority complex because they dont support local movies at all. its all hollywood…hollywood…hollywood. Atleast in Japan and Korea, domestic films take upwards of 40 percent of the BO. Not in HK. Domestic films probably take up less than 10 percent. Actually, I would call HK a Western-driven Box Office… and then an Idol drive one.

  17. I came expecting an entertainment article, but I was happily surprised by your write up on the film industry in the middle.

    I thought that it was very insightful look at the differences between HK and the mainland. The most interesting thing about China was that before, the art house directers were the ones with the big entertainment hits. ie Zhang Yimou

    How do you think Taiwan fits into all of this? The most recent example of an HK/Taiwan/Mainland production I can think of is Red Cliff. I don’t know who invested in the movie, but the actors were from all of these places. Is the future of Mandarin language film collaboration between these 3 places?

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