Qiu Jinwei, a tourist from Wuhan, Hubei province, drove to Xiangyang, a city about 300 kilometers away, after watching the bittersweet time-travel comedy Hi, Mom on Feb 12. He and his family took photos at the chemical products factory where the movie was shot — where all the buildings and decorations were preserved in the style of 1980s China.
“I grew up in a factory like this, and all the scenes looked so familiar,” Qin wrote on WeChat.
In addition to shops where buyers had to buy ration coupons because stocks were small, these scenes featured red brick houses hung with old-fashioned signboards showing employees. A staff canteen, public pools, a basketball court, and the spot where a young woman and a man shielded themselves from the rain and fell for each other were on view.
Qiu is one of the thousands of tourists who made a nostalgic visit to Xiangyang after being inspired by the Spring Festival blockbuster, which raked in more than 3 billion yuan ($464 million) and led the film’s director Jia Ling to becoming the female director with the biggest box office success in Chinese film history.
In the movie, the protagonist, high school student Jia Xiaoling, and her mother Li Huanying are hit by a truck and the mother is critically injured. While in the hospital, Jia mysteriously travels to 1981 when Li is in her 20s. They quickly become close friends.
Jia wants to make Li happy by making her the first worker in the factory to be able to buy a television and also wants to help her mom win a big volleyball match. The filial daughter’s own fate is endangered as she encourages her mother to marry the son of the factory’s manager instead of Jia’s father. But her plans repeatedly go awry. While drunk, Jia says she feels useless for not being able to make big money and make her mother proud. But Li said her greatest desire was that her future daughter would be “healthy and happy”.
The movie is also a tribute to the director’s mother, who died in an accident. The family drama has the power to “have your tears soak your face mask” Netizens said.
Its critical ranking as a film is as high as 9.5 out of 10 on the Maoyan ticketing service website, 9.3 on the Taopiaopiao smartphone ticketing app from Alibaba, and 8.2 on the Douban review platform.
A netizen said on Sina Weibo that audiences can easily relate to the story, which tells of maternal love and regrets in life. The netizen added that many of her friends had visited the old, obscure factory where some of the movie scenes were shot.
A manager of a grocery store within the factory complex told The Paper that few people had visited before, but after the film went viral, the number of tourists surged and the store received about 1,000 visits a day.
On Tuesday (Feb 16) and Wednesday, the crowd was so large that a traffic jam forced police to keep order, local authorities reported. Pear Video was told by a middle-aged woman that her late uncle had worked at the plant once. After seeing the movie, she wanted to visit as it revived childhood memories within her. According to the publicity department of the city, Xiangyang welcomed 837,600 tourist visits during the Spring Festival holiday from Feb 11 to 17, and related revenue stacked up to over 154 million yuan.
Hubei Weidong Holding Group and 603 Cultural and Creative Park, two of the shooting locations for the movie, have received more than 30,000 tourist visits so far since the film opened over the long holiday.
As an old industrial base, Xiangyang has many factories producing pharmaceuticals, machinery and aerospace equipment. The city will further promote industrial tourism by developing industrial heritage and factory tours with more participation from local companies, the department said.
Zhu Yunhai, a tourism expert from Hubei University of Arts and Science, told Xiangyang Daily that the rising popularity of the film is helping the city become better known and said there is potential for the integrated development of the culture and tourism industries.
Ji Gang, a global partner at consultancy Roland Berger, said the success of movies and soap operas sometimes transforms shooting locations into hot spots and drives local tourism for some time. How long their fame can last depends on the power of the story, Ji said.