When scalpers outside the venue are asking for extra tickets instead of selling them, and the spectators don’t hesitate for even a second to walk straight in, you know there must be a huge event on that no one wants to miss. This was the scene at Screaming Night 2019, iQIYI’s annual gala gathering of A-list actors, singers, idols and fans for a look back at the last year in China’s “pan-entertainment” sphere — and a preview of what’s to come.
Professionals from different sectors of the industry received awards in categories such as TV series, music, variety shows, films, and artists (all with an iQIYI bent of course). Looking at them, one was reminded of almost all of the hit shows and productions that have enriched Chinese people’s entertainment lives this year.
The cast of The Story of Yanxi Palace with screenwriter and producer Yu Zheng
The hottest TV show in summer 2018 — and arguably, the whole year — was no doubt iQIYI’s The Story of Yanxi Palace. As we wrote in August, the revolutionary female role of a concubine of Emperor Qianlong, Wei Yingluo, attracted over 10 billion views to the 70 hour-long drama, and incited heated discussion on social media. The show was awarded Drama King of the Year.
The next big winner, unsurprisingly, was another iQIYI property that’ll be familiar to regular RADII readers, The Rap of China. Although the second season of the rap-themed variety show seemed less controversial with its emphasis on “positive energy” (following rumors of a government “hip-hop ban” that never quite materialized), it is still the only mainstream show that aims to promote rap music in China. And of course, one of its judges is the mighty Kris Wu. Another judge, Hong Kong singer (and friend of the late Stan Lee) G.E.M., performed at the gala along with Rap of China season 2 contestants 3Ho and ICE, and season 1’s After Journey and Huang Xu BooM.
By contrast, Idol Producer — the iQIYI talent show for building super-boy group NINE PERCENT — was strongly supported by a raft of K-pop fans. Holding light-up boards and banners with their idols’ names, these fans spared no effort to shout at their favorites, a perfect encapsulation of why this gala is called “Screaming Night.” When you see a hundred fans holding up their Canon cameras, with backlit lenses focusing in on the beloved idols, you realize why entrance tickets went for as high as 600USD a pop — just another small contribution to China’s “Fan Economy.”
Jackson Yee, a member of China-original idol group TFBOYS who has more than 66 million followers on Weibo and just celebrated his 18th birthday, performed his newly-released single “Dear There Is No One Here” — a ’70s-style psychedelic rock jam — as the finale.
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On the film side of things, Dying to Survive director Wen Muye and lead actor Xu Zheng received Film of the Year and Actor of the Year nods. These awards were presented in a surprise cameo by Feng Xiaogang, a famous director who had his own award-worthy hit in 2017’s Youth, and is known for keeping a low profile (at least when he’s not battling it out on Weibo with Fan Bingbing accuser Cui Yongyuan).
Dying to Survive directory Wen Muye
But of course this was also a celebration of iQIYI, as much as a celebration of the arts or entertainment. According to an official source from iQIYI, as of the end of September 2018 the number of paid memberships on the platform had reached 80.7 million. The company’s stock price, however, has fluctuated ever since it was listed on NASDAQ in March, while the competition between iQIYI (which is backed by Baidu), Tencent Video, and Alibaba-backed Youku has forced the BAT tech giants to invest ever more capital and resources into the creation of high quality content for their users. There is therefore still a big question mark hanging over whether the “Chinese Netflix,” or “Netflix Plus” (as iQIYI VP Leon Chen called the platform in an April 2018 interview with RADII) will ultimately win the market.
What we can say for certain is that they’ve momentarily cornered the market on social media attention. Two days after the event, the fact that former EXO band mates Kris Wu and Lu Han were sat at the same table became the top search term on Weibo — a pairing we’re sure was accompanied by more than a few screams from avid fans.
Cover photo: A fan attempts to capture a photo of their idol on stage at Screaming Night 2019 (courtesy iQIYI)
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