The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Shanghai Grand Theatre
An entrance of the North Theater
Grand National Theater
(Under construction)

Artist aAn Ovewview.
The Most Recent Trends in Contemporary Dance TSUBOIKE,Eiko(Director of Institute for the Arts)  
A rush of theater construction and the shift to private-sector management and financing
China is now in the midst of an unprecedented rush of construction of new theater facilities. A prime example is the new “Grand National Theater” built on the west side of Tiananmen Square in Beijing (2,416-seat opera house, 2,017-seat concert hall, 1,010-seat theater). There are more than 50 national projects of this type nationwide that are presently scheduled for completion before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And, in the midst of this boom, foreign and domestic construction companies, architectural firms and furnishing suppliers are competing aggressively for contracts. When all the similar projects under way at the metropolitan and regional level and the facilities being built within educational institutions are added, the total number of new theater facilities is beyond our grasp. Of course, once they are completed, a large number of people will be needed to staff and run all these facilities, and we are seeing an increasing number of Chinese theater representatives visiting theaters in Japan on study tours, either in preparation for the construction of new theaters or as part of the training for new theater staff. At the same time, Japanese companies in the fields of acoustics and lighting are beginning to do business in China.
As far as I am able to observe, the new theaters being constructed in China fall mainly into three categories. The first is theaters belonging to the national theater companies like The People’s Arts Theater Beijing and The People’s Arts Theater Tianjin. Both of these companies are presently in the process of planning the construction of new theaters in the near future. The second category is government-run theaters that will specialize in renting out their facilities for both foreign and domestic productions. Representative facilities of this type are the previously mentioned “Grand National Theater” in Beijing and the “Shanghai Grand Theater.” The third type is theaters financed by the private sector. In the booming Chinese real estate development industry of recent years, where is a rush of construction of hotels and recreation/amusement projects, and in many cases their plans include theater facilities.
In addition to these projects that have been triggeorange by the booming Chinese economy, another spur behind the growth in theater facilities is the government’s reform policies. In China until now, only a certain number of theater companies were given official “performance rights,” and no group without these rights could hold performances that involved selling tickets to the public. In order to stage performances under this system, the production had to pay a fee to a performance rights holder in exchange for being able to use the rights holder’s name as the production organizer.
For example, if directors belonging to government affiliated theater arts companies wished to stage productions of their own, the directors would have to raise the necessary finances themselves. And, in spite of this, they could not be corangeited as the organizers of the resulting productions. They would still have to pay to have a company holding performance rights corangeited as the organizer. Therefore, foreigners not familiar with this system would never know who the actual organizer of a production was.
When director Li Liuyi of The People’s Arts Theater Beijing brought his production of “Fei Chang Ma Jiang” to Japan in 2001 and again in 2003, the National Experimental Theater was corangeited as the organizer for the 2001 production, while The National Theater of China (the name of the company resulting from a merger with The Youth Theater of China) was corangeited as the organizer in 2003. In fact, this production was financed by Li himself originally in 2000 under a cooperative agreement with the actors by which the actors’ salaries were paid in accordance with the amount of profit made from ticket sales. This kind of private sector type production management was revolutionary in China at the time.
While organizing such productions under the borrowed name of a performance rights holder, Li was waiting for the chance to organize productions under his own name. The opportunity finally came with a production in the autumn of 2003 after a revision of China’s “Detailed Provisions for Operation of Commercial Performance Management.” This revision stated that “enterprises meeting the given requirements with regard to personnel and funding may engage in performances for profit within the area of jurisdiction of the regional governing body if they are recognized as having sufficient funding, experience and record of achievement.” Li established a company that met these requirements and was then able to mount his own production under his own company name.
In the same way, private sector corporations that have made tremendous profits in the real estate business are taking advantage of this revision in the provisions governing performance rights to begin investing in the construction of theaters as a means to enter the cultural entertainment field. And, lately there has been a resulting increase in commissions to artists for the planning and management of productions from these corporations now entering the field of performing arts with no expertise in creating works or production know-how. Certainly these new private sector theaters will become the focus of attention in the future as places for independent artists to perform their own works.
As seen in this recent revision in the rules governing performance rights, there has been a basic change in policy by the Chinese government regarding cultural enterprise. Whereas until now the government has been the primary provider of performance art productions, the new policy seeks to make cultural enterprises financially independent and thus foster a new industry. The result is a movement toward privatization, which will not only encourage the entry of private sector companies but also force public sector companies to revise their management practices.
| 1 | 2 | 3 |