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Few cinemas showing Lei Feng films
A poster for “Youthful Days.”

THREE Chinese movies based on the life of 1960s soldier and national icon Lei Feng were released Tuesday, but few cinemas are showing the movies because of audiences’ low interest in the theme, according to media reports.

The three movies, “Youthful Days,” “The Sweet Smile” and “Lei Feng in 1959,” depict the short life of Lei, showcasing his generosity, optimism, self-improvement efforts and diligence. “Youthful Days” also tells Lei’s love story, which has been criticized by netizens as fictional and untrustworthy.

Lei (1940-1962) was a soldier in the People’s Liberation Army of China. He was characterized as a selfless person who was devoted to the nation and helping others. He died when a telephone pole fell on him while he was directing a truck as it backed up.

In 1963, Chairman Mao Zedong introduced the slogan “Learn From Comrade Lei Feng.” Since then, every March 5 has been marked as a national day of volunteerism to commemorate Lei.

Domestic media reports said nearly no one went to cinemas to watch the Lei Feng movies Tuesday, even though 2013 is 50 years after Mao’s commemoration of “Lei Feng spirit.” A cinema manager in Nanjing said the movies wouldn’t be played this weekend, because several new movies were coming soon.

However, Xiaoxiang Film Group, the producer of “Youthful Days,” said there were still group audiences, like schools and organizations, that watched the movie.

Most cinemas in downtown Shenzhen aren’t screening the three movies. Some cinemas, like Poly Cinema, Bona Cinema and Jinyi Cinema, are only showing one screening a day.

On March 4, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television released a notice suggesting local cinemas allocate more screens for the three movies, but sources from some Shenzhen cinemas said they hadn’t received a mandatory order and still had no plan to run the three movies.

Movies about Lei’s stories have been filmed many times in China since 1964. The most famous is “The Days Without Lei Feng” in 1996. The movie earned box office revenues of 30 million yuan (US$4.78 million) in China.

Netizens said that with so many lavish movies in cinemas today, movies about Lei’s stories are not attractive to Chinese audiences. Without A-list actors or promotions, mainstream or revolutionary films will hardly score a dime in the box office, many said.

(Cao Zhen)

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