Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fan-based Drama: A Blue Ocean Strategy to Penetrate China’s Theater Market

After struggling with finding a precise translation for “Fen Si Xi Ju (粉丝戏剧)”, I decided to use “Fan-based Drama” to refer to a new model of theater production which is obtaining crazy popularity and astonishing profits in China’s theater market.

Instead of creating a new play or reviving a classic one, which many theater companies have been doing for years, “Fan-based Drama” focuses on popular content in the market of novels, TV and movies. Its key strategy is to select content and touring spots largely dependent on the strength of the existing fan base, though quality itself is still an important factor.

In July 2013, the theatrical adaption of the first volume of The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles, a popular and nine-book grave-robber novel series, became the pioneer of this “Fan-based Drama” strategy and swept China with $30 million ticket sales while only spending $3 million in production, making itself a “blockbuster” of that year and opening up an untapped theater market. According to Oriental Morning Post, within only one year, this produciton has already toured around 15 cities and put on 77 shows. Statistics show that 80% of its audience are first-time theater-goers and most of them are students born after 1990s. Also, many of them are novel fans, which indicates that its “fan base” is the fundamental success factor. These are a lot of people that other theater productions have failed to reach or never tried to reach before. However, it proves that there is a great market potential.

According to Xuchun Sun in Xinmin Evening News, CEO of Jinhui Production Company, their strategy is to select a work, usually a novel, which has a fan base of thousands or millions of fans. In that way, though only 1% of those fans come to watch the show, the total number of the audience is still way bigger than what a traditional production can oftentimes attract into the theater. For example, The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles has an estimate of 10 million fans in China. Even though there is only 1% demand, they still need to put on 100 shows which can at least ensure a break-even for the production. What’s more, their touring schedule is largely dependent on the number and passion level of fans in each city through online votes, which better secures the show’s popularity and theater attendance.

Undoubtedly, the “Fan-based Drama” strategy of The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles (Volume 1) has created that huge demand in the unknown blue ocean untainted by competition from similar productions. This July, The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles is presenting the adaption of its Volume 3 after another huge success from Volume 2. Its growth is amazingly rapid and profitable. Though it has been heavily criticized for its commercialism, its fan base is so unbeatable that there’s still a positive future for its other six more adaptions.

P.S. The references are in Chinese. If you are interested, here is an English article about the show <http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/829805.shtml>.

[1] Guang Zhu, “Fan-based Dram Goes Industrialized”, Xinmin Evening News, Nov 8, 2014
[2] Yu Pan, “Why Is The Grave Robber’s Chronicles So Popular? – A Fan-based Dram, Nothing about Art”, Oriental Morning Post, July 23, 2014

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