This report is about the famous Beijing Film Studio, targeted to be demolished three years ago and still left waiting, abandoned, falling more and more into decay.
I would not have explored Beijing Film Studio without my friend Paul, a student at the prestigious Beijing Film Institute, who spotted this place. We decided to go check it out twice on week-ends. This place is really mythical and not even far from the city center, just on the third ring road north section. It has been the location of the Beijing film studios since 1971. Films like adaptations of Lao She’s novels and plays – Ling Zifeng’s Rickshaw Boy (骆驼祥子) and Xie Tian’s Teahouse (茶馆) both directed in 1982 – but also Farewell to my concubine (霸王别姬) about Beijing opera, directed in 1955 during the Maoist period and Chen Kaige’s 1993 critically acclaimed Farewell to my concubine, without forgetting Little flower (小花) which came out in 1979 just after the Cultural revolution, were shot in this place. Therefore, this place really reflects the evolution of the Chinese film industry from the 1950s to the 2000s. While the Beijing Film Studio set was moved to a more distant location in Huairou area, this place was semi-abandoned and parts of it were targeted for demolition in 2012, according to news reports. But in December 2015, it was still there… What a brilliant idea to go explore it!
Studio warehouse exploration
Inside the compound, we could not find a way in the most interesting locked warehouses, even if we really tried (even the gang members smoking in front of the building did not manage to get in)… It remains in our future urbex projects…
But we got into a smaller warehouse.
The rooms for make-up and clothing are now transformed into housing.
The place where they shot movies was mostly empty but we found a few remaining objects…
Another interesting building was a sort of amusement facility around the theme of film-making, abandoned for many years. But we did not manage to go inside the place (yet).
The street of Ming and Qing style
We were also able to go inside the famous place where they shot movies outdoors. I will show you the current state of abandonment in 2015 by comparing it to Gilles Sabrié’s pictures1. The outdoor set called « street of Ming and Qing style » (明清风情街) was used to shoot many films and TV series from the Ming and Qing dynasties, but also from the 1930s-1940s.
During busy days, as many as six projects could be filmed altogether. The inner streets could really be full of actors and extras during shootings. The area is now only full of wild grass, while the wooden structure of buildings is slowly falling apart.
In the compound, a lot of buildings still have the « 拆 chai » character painted on the walls, but it seems that because the place carries a lot of history, demolition is still on hold and some buildings could be kept as part of a protection plan. But these are just hear-say, it is not very clear why demolition has not occured yet. When we got out, we turned around the place. It was really interesting to see in the same street how ordinary people continue to live an ordinary Beijing life in the surrounding residential compounds while inside the movie set, one can really enjoy a beautiful trip back in time…
- He documented the bittersweet dreams of fame resulting in a difficult lifestyle led by hundreds of extras for the Beijing Film Studios… ↩