Seven hundred million yuan in box office sales is uncommon for a movie, especially a Chinese cartoon, to achieve. But Monkey King Hero is Back did it in less than a month since its release on July 10.
Based on the classic novel Journey to the West, Monkey King Hero is Back assigns contemporary humor to the beloved old characters. The 3D effects were not great, but the movie’s real success is in the way it has managed to gather public investment during all the stages of its production and promotion.
Seeking public investment for a movie has been a popular strategy in recent years in China. Moviemakers sell so-called “public chips” on platforms such as Yuleabo, which is owned by Alibaba. After the movie’s release, chip buyers receive returns on their investment depending on the movie’s box office sales.
The first movie to try this strategy was Tiny Times 4, in 2013. The movie was released this year and offered investors a 7 percent return, which was considered disappointing.
Another movie, The Golden Era, used Baidu’s fundraising platform, Baifayouxi. On Baifayouxi, the return on investment varies according to the movie’s box office sales. If the sales are below 200 million yuan, the rate is 8 percent, but if they reach 600 million yuan, the return rate goes up to 16 percent. This system attracted many investors, but unfortunately the film didn’t even reach 100 million yuan in sales.
Compared with these two pioneering attempts of the “public chips” industry, Monkey King Hero is Back has used a different targeting strategy that has proved more effective.
Lu Wei, one of the movie’s producers, said that 89 people have invested a total of 7.8 million yuan in the movie. The company made a point out of persuading parents with young children to invest.
The moviemakers expected box office sales to reach 500 million yuan. In that case, each investor would have earned 250,000 yuan. That amount is certainly larger now with a box office of 700 million yuan.
Producer Liu Zhijiang said that the marketing benefits have far exceeded the investment because the investors in their turn persuaded friends and family to go see the movie.
Next, the team took advantage of social media platforms after the movie’s release.
They collaborated with WeChat Tickets, which offered a 20 percent discount on tickets, and they partnered up with more than 1,000 cinemas for an increased number of showings every day.
And that’s not all. Following Disney and DreamWorks’ example, Monkey King Hero is Back has released a merchandise line, including toys and bags. Merchandise sales reached 11.8 million yuan on the first day.
Even if Monkey King Hero is Back doesn’t become a cult movie, its strategies for financing, social media and marketing might have a lasting impact on the film industry.