Ripples of Desire (花漾), a joint-venture film produced with funding from both Taiwan and China, has caused a stir because of its dreadful box office showing and questionable financing arrangement, which allegedly favored the Chinese investors.
The movie started its run during the prime time Christmas and New Year holiday season. However, Ripples of Desire, which cost about NT$150 million (US$5.17 million) to make, bombed at the box office.
In the five-day period after it hit movie theaters on Dec. 28, the movie made just NT$1.66 million in ticket sales in Taipei and just NT$3.8 million nationwide.
This marks an unusually dismal performance for a Taiwan-produced movie, as the nation’s film entertainment industry on the whole is on the upsurge. In addition, critics, fans and moviegoers gave the film unfavorable reviews.
Only NT$42 million of funding for the film’s directorial and production expenses came from the Chinese side.
The rest of the funding came from Taiwan, with the Ministry of Culture and TC-1 Culture Fund (台灣文創一號) each providing NT$35 million. The film’s director, Zero Chou (周美玲), and a Kaohsiung-based culture and entertainment foundation gave additional funding.
A report by the Chinese-language Next Magazine has called the film’s profit-sharing arrangement into question, alleging it was akin to an “unequal treaty” — with all profits from theaters in China going to Chinese investors, despite the Chinese side investing less than one-third of the total production cost.
The film would need to earn more than 50 million yuan (US$8 million) from ticket sales in China before Taiwanese investors can take a share in Chinese revenue, the Next Magazine report said.
In response, the film’s producer Wang Li-ming (王莉茗) said they used the “bottom-line profit-sharing” arrangement, and have already taken 9 million yuan from Chinese investors.
She added that all expenses for the film’s release and theater run in China are the responsibility of the Chinese investors, adding that it was considered a good deal in the entertainment industry.
A number of netizens on online discussion sites said the movie’s preview trailer was not very enticing and branded it a jiong (囧片) film, meaning they were disappointed or perplexed by it.
Overall, the movie did not generate much interest nor discussion among the nation’s netizens.
Chou, who invested much of her personal funds in the film, was downcast about the film’s showing.
“Although I can not pinpoint any reason, I felt the public did not have the desire to watch this movie … I might be saddled with debt for at least two years,” she said.
The film featured big-name stars, including Jerry Yan (言承旭), Michelle Chen (陳妍希), Ivy Chen (陳意涵) and Joseph Cheng (鄭元暢).
With the exception of Yan, the others had reportedly been too busy with other work commitments to help promote the film.