Welcome to China Film File, a weekly brief on the business of movies in China. In this week’s news: China films a no-show at the Oscars, Jackie Chan speaks out on censorship, and Chinese film funds come to America.
This last week, The Hobbit 2 continued its reign over China’s box offices, pulling in over $26 million, while other Hollywood import Robocop opened strong at over $20 million for the week.
(Box office results courtesy of Box Office Mojo.)
China left the this year’s Oscars ceremony without any awards or nomination for Cannes favorite A Touch of Sin. Because Jia Zhangke’s violent opus was not officially released in China, it couldn’t qualify for “the little golden man” (as the award is known to the mainland’s social media). In line with the earlier play of claiming that the film would be released in China’s theaters to keep down criticism, A Touch of Sin’s absence from the awards is definitely the quiet result of a government strategy to keep attention away from the film.
A couple of large-scale U.S.-China co-production deals recently hit the trade newspapers. Shanghai Media Group has just inked a deal to produce content with Disney for the Chinese market and likewise, the Huayi Brothers, responsible for 3D action adventures like Young Detective Dee and Journey to the West, are injecting cash into former Warner Bros. studio head Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8 to generate future blockbusters for the mainland.
Jackie Chan surprisingly joined director Feng Xiaogang to speak against censorship at this week’s session of China’s parliamentary advisory body, the CPPCC. While Feng Xiaogang often makes controversial statements concerning his problems with China’s censors, Chan has often caused a different type of controversy by standing against free expression and protest in the mainland. Even at this summit, his stance doesn’t actually seem to be in dispute with the creative problems imposed by censorship, but simply stems from concerns that it’s making films less marketable. In a prior interview with the South China Morning Post, Chan stated:
“I know there’s a risk to saying this, but I don’t care now, because it seems normal that I speak inappropriately. If a movie is heavily censored, cutting all the ‘sharp edges and corners’, its box-office performance will suffer drastically.”