China has many international films that are shown in their cinemas every day, but only a few of them are actually dubbed in Chinese. The rest of the movies are in their original formats and are watched entirely in English.
In fact, dubbed films are only offered until 7pm every day, and the rest of the time, there are only English showings. The translation services offered for the dubbed movies have suffered in the past years because of a lack of talented voice actors and financial support, among other issues.
Golden Age of Dubbed Films
Chinese cinema hasn’t always been this way. In the 80’s, China experienced a golden age of dubbed films and over a thousand movies were imported into the country and dubbed into Chinese by famous voice actors. The Chinese translation services for movies have sadly waned since then, and many people are starting to complain about the selection of dubbed movies decades later. In 1949, the first dubbed movie was featured in China.
Before then, movies were only available with subtitles or they were silent films. For the first twenty years of dubbed movies, about fifty were dubbed every year, but they weren’t available to the public. Dubbed films were mainly reserved for senior officials.
In the 80’s, dubbed films were finally available for public audiences, and a large variety of films from all over the world underwent professional translation to be dubbed into Mandarin Chinese. One of the biggest hits of the 80’s was Zorro. The actor who played Zorro, Alain Delon, became one of the first foreign stars that the Chinese people adored.
Though many foreign actors soon became quite popular in China, it was the voice actors that really captured their hearts. In fact, when Delon came to China, many people who heard him speak were disappointed and thought that his voice wasn’t as glamorous as the Chinese voice actor who dubbed his lines.
Voice Actors of the 80’s Not Popular with Younger Generations
From the 90’s until today, about ten foreign blockbusters are allowed into the country every year. However, since the 80’s, China has been more open to foreign cultures and the traditional style of dubbed films has become unpopular to younger generations now that more western styles and fashions are available to them.
This has created a deficit in voice actors that are able to draw in younger movie-goes, which has been one of the reasons there is a lack of dubbed films in Chinese cinemas. Also, the budget for a single production is only about $8,000, which is half of what it used to be. This isn’t enough to provide quality dubbing for films, and so usually no dubbing is done at all.
Source: China Daily