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by Julia Pierrepont III, Gao Shan

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- In 2018, U.S.-China co-productions are no longer treading water, as "The Meg," co-produced by the two countries' film companies, grossed half a billion U.S. dollars in the global box office.

The film blew the negative perceptions about U.S.-China co-productions out of the water and showed a bright future for film cooperation between the two countries.

SUCCESS IN BOTH MARKETS

As Warner Bros. Pictures' U.S.-China co-production blockbuster, the film, co-produced by U.S. and Chinese film companies including Apelles Entertainment and China's Gravity Pictures, is believed to have successfully integrated both cultures.

"I wanted the film to be a China co-production and it was important to do it right," said Belle Avery, a producer and the founder of Apelles Entertainment who originated the project.

"I wanted to do the Chinese cultural characters right, so it was culturally sound. The key was to be respectful and synergistic when integrating both cultures," Avery added.

Ben Erwei Ji, co-producer of the film and managing director of China's Reach Glory Entertainment, told Xinhua that the film "had significance for Chinese audience. It was relevant to them, and it had organic, character-driven reasons for it to succeed in that market and both markets."

"Throwing in a Chinese star or just shooting in China is not going to work for co-pros anymore," said Arthur Sarkissian, producer of the hit "Rush Hour" franchise and the Britain-China co-production "The Foreigner."

"We need to learn more about Chinese culture and better understand the Chinese market," Sarkissian said, adding that the Chinese side should also learn how to tell a more universal story that can appeal out of China.

"These are strong stories that truly integrate U.S. and Chinese elements," said Elizabeth Dell, head of the China Task Force of the Producer's Guild of America, referring to the hit 2018 co-production.

Pointing out that "the United States and China are the world's top two markets, but they could not be more different from each other," former Fox studio executive Xian Li also emphasized the importance of finding stories and underlying materials that appeal to audience in both markets.

CROSS-CULTURAL EXCHANGES

Some films with Chinese elements also attracted attention over the past year with stories that took viewers out of their comfort zone for a glimpse into each other's cultures with deeper awareness and wider perspectives.

The most notable were two documentaries: "The Girl and the Picture," directed by Vanessa Roth, and "Better Angels," directed by Malcolm Clarke.

"It's about family and the memories we leave behind. A story that began 200 years ago in 1937, when eight-year-old Xia Shuqin witnessed the murder of her family in the horror known as the Nanjing Massacre," Roth said of her film.

The film is the winner of the American Documentary Film Festival U.S. Special Jury Award and the Newport Beach Film Festival Outstanding Achievement in Film Making: Documentary Short.

"Better Angels" is a documentary co-production about ordinary American and Chinese individuals who have created their own cross-cultural bridges, contributing in a more personal way to forging a better path for future international co-operation.

The huge curiosity about China explains the growth in the success of China-U.S. co-productions, said the producer of "Better Angels" William Mundell.

"American film makers are looking to expand beyond their existing mature markets and China is an obvious target," he said.

The cooperation and exchanges between the two countries' film industries are picking up steam.

The Walt Disney Studios, a well-known U.S. film studio, sees their relationship with China as more personal than just a business transaction.

In August, Disney brought 20 of China's leading animators, animation company executives, writers and government officials to western U.S. state of California for a three-week training to learn from Disney's best practice.

"Last year we announced that Chinese actress Liu Yifei would be cast as Disney's Mulan in the upcoming live-action remake of Disney's 1998 classic animation. Based on the Chinese folk-tale, Mulan tells a story that resonates with everyone here in China," said John Hsu, general manager of studio at the Walt Disney Company (China) Limited.

The Hollywood giant is playing an active role in helping the Chinese animation industry grow and happy to share its secrets to success, said Hsu.