China Film File: High Hopes For ‘Despicable’, Zhang’s Pricey Offspring, And China Film’s New Ruler

Welcome to China Film File, a weekly brief on the business of movies in China. In today’s news: a change up top at China Film Group, Zhang Yimou’s $1.2 million fine, and Despicable Me 2‘s arrival in China.

Up in The Wind

Up in The Wind.

This week’s box office results see the Jackie Chan-helmed Police Story 2013 on top while director Feng Xiaogang’s controversial Personal Tailor continues its successful run, grossing over $100 million in its third week. With a bevy of openings this week, director Teng Huatao’s comedy romance film Up in The Wind joins a group of successful homespun Chinese romantic dramas, making the strongest premiere against four competing foreign action/thriller films. Part of the current wave of social issue-minded domestic films, Up in the Wind tells the story of a young social-climbing magazine reporter that travels to Nepal in order to find herself.

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(Box office results courtesy of Box Office Mojo.)

A series of executive musical chairs has occurred in China’s gargantuan state-run film body, the China Film Group. While there have been a few changes of position, none hold as much gravity as Han Sanping’s move away from chairman. Responsible for the majority of production, distribution, acquisitions, and export of films in China, the CFG’s current head, Han Sanping, is reportedly stepping down from his post this Chinese New Year (January 31st) to be replaced by deputy head La Peikang.

An exceedingly powerful figure that has directed his own films, Han has been heavily involved with many facets of film production. Beyond his chairmanship of CFG, Han also holds a credit as an executive producer in a slew of films, including this year’s China box office smash Journey to the West, along with numerous American pictures like Mission Impossible III and 2013’s remake of Karate Kid. Ultimately, many see Han’s former position as major figure in international co-production deals a potential boon for Hollywood’s attempts to gain traction in the China’s market, which has been one of the most important topics at many of this year’s film industry pow-wows and festivals.

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CFG’s Han Sanping.

Often heralded as one of China’s greatest directors, Zhang Yimou was fined $1.2 million by the Chinese government for violating China’s strict one-child policy after enjoying tremendous fame for many years as a celebrity director. It’s possible there could have been an internal falling out with China’s heavily bureaucratic state-run film body, but details are slim.

Zhang Yimou

Zhang Yimou. (Reuters)

A feature film based on Old Boys, a popular shoestring budget microfilm, is being backed by China’s Youku. Originally a hugely popular 43-minute internet short designed to be watched on cellphones, the video has garnered over 80 million views since 2010 on China’s video mega-site, Youku. Centering on a comic duo trying to make it in the talent industry, Old Boys has found tremendous domestic appeal with China’s youth. Filmmakers/stars Xiao Yang and Wang Taili have now entered the first deal of its kind with Youku Originals in partnership with LeVision Pictures and Ruyi films to produce Old Boys: The Way of the Dragon, a feature that will send the pair on an adventure in New York. Regarding the push to China’s young culture, Frank Ming Wei, Youku’s president, recently said, “Youku Tudou will leverage its influence online, particularly with younger generations who consume entertainment on the web, and interact to provide powerful upstream and downstream marketing support for the film, creating a dynamic multi-channel ecosystem that engages viewers and creates new promotional opportunities for China’s film industry.”

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Cast at the press announcement for Old Boys: Way of the Dragon. (Andy Wong AP)

Run Run Shaw, Hong Kong’s historical movie mogul, passed away at the age of 106. The godfather of Kung-Fu films and a figure of enormous cultural influence, Shaw’s bright and permanent legacy is responsible for launching many of China’s most important film stars and truly establishing China’s presence in international film history.

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Run Run Shaw. (Reuters)

Although the first film was held back by China’s censors, Universal’s Despicable Me 2 is set to open in China this Friday. Apparently costing only $76 million to make, “the most profitable film in Universal’s 101-year history” has brought in over $920 million internationally. Although this year’s news held domestic films taking in largest share of China’s booming film market, as far as animation goes, imported features still perform about four times better than China’s homegrown offerings.

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Despicable Me 2

 

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