China Film File: Monkey Madness, Quota Questions, And Zhang Yimou’s Journey West

Welcome to China Film File, a weekly brief on the business of movies in China. In today’s news: The Monkey King is still ruling China’s box office, Zhang Yimou makes foray overseas, and rumors of a higher quota for foreign films appear to be a hoax.

Still on top, The Monkey King.

Still on top: The Monkey King.

The Monkey King is still dominating China’s box office. The blockbuster pulled in another $74 million last weekend, while the reality TV-based Dad, Where Are We Going? continued to take in enormous profits, nearing a $100 million gross on the mainland. With all the record-breaking opening weekends last week, it should be no surprise that this Chinese New Year week earned a new weekly China box office record at over $230 million in ticket sales between January 31 and February 6.

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(Box office statistics courtesy of Box Office Mojo.)

Famed Chinese director Zhang Yimou is in the middle of a deal to make his first Western production. Possibly fed up with—or maybe even shunned from—China’s state-run film industry after the scandal over his one-child policy violation and resulting fines, Zhang is ready to start fresh in Hollywood. Based on a spy thriller novel by Robert Ludlum named The Parsifal Mosaic, the film is to be produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, whose partnership Imagine Entertainment has been behind blockbusters like The DaVinci Code and American Gangster.

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Zhang Yimou makes his own “journey to the West.”

Chinafilmbiz has an interesting profile of the most powerful person in China’s film industry, China Film Group’s (CFG) new chairman La Peikang. The successor to charismatic “mover and shaker” Han Sanping, La is seen by his peers as more “academic” and “sophisticated”. Here is the Chinafilmbiz take on what Han was able to accomplish for the China film industry while in office, and what La has to live up to:

I remember the early days of his tenure when Han Sanping would show up in Hollywood unknown and barely acknowledged, begging for meetings with studio execs, agents, movie stars, anyone who would pay attention. Most dismissed him in those days as unworthy of their time, because China was so negligible as a territory, let alone as a potential source of financing. But Han’s “Baqi” (覇气) loosely translated as “lord’s air” or “domineering spirit,” drove him to oversee the incredibly rapid modernization of the Chinese market, with the construction of 16,000 new cinema screens and a corresponding 2,700 percent increase in domestic box office receipts. Nowadays, thanks largely to Han’s contributions, China is on everyone’s mind, and it would be difficult to find a serious agent or executive who doesn’t know his name.

As the former Deputy Chairman of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) Film Bureau and head of CFG’s powerful co-production subsidiary, the China Film Co-Production Company, his appointment points to a continued push for co-productions in gaining more international recognition for China’s film industry. La’s perceived loyalty to the party was most likely instrumental in his push to the top, argues Chinafilmbiz. Installed during Chinese New Year, we will soon see if he has what it takes to continue the extreme forward momentum that began under Han’s leadership.

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CFG’s new head, La Peikang.

To Hollywood’s temporary delight, Hollywood Reporter claimed via an anonymous source that China might up its foreign film quota to allow 10 more foreign films in a year than the current number of 34. However, the rumor was officially denied this Tuesday by China’s SARFT. China’s film executives are most likely not eager to invite more competition after holding a record-breaking year for China’s homespun offerings. At this point, it looks like China’s film industry is still eager to both boost ticket sales for domestic productions and intensify pressure for Hollywood executives to pursue more co-productions rather than allowing new foreign film competition.

Although the quota stays the same, you can bet Iron Man 4 will still make it to China.

Although the quota stays the same, you can bet Iron Man 4 will still make it to China.

China and India are close to signing a film co-production deal that has been in discussion for over a year. While the details of the proposed agreement haven’t been made available, there is no question that big things will happen when these two enormous film markets begin to work together.

Jackie Chan at last year's Chinese Film Festival in New Delhi.

Jackie Chan at last year’s Chinese Film Festival in New Delhi.

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