Welcome to China Film File, a weekly brief on the business of movies in China. In this week’s news: an international emphasis for this year’s 17th annual Shanghai Film Festival, the continuation of China’s Transformers mania, and Brad Pitt’s return to the mainland.
X-Men: Days of Futures Past is continuing to smash China’s box offices with a weekend gross of $43 million. Following the Hollywood import is Overheard 3 with a weekend gross of $23 million, however, this installment of the popular Hong Kong action espionage franchise has received less than superlative reviews.
(Box office results courtesy of Box Office Mojo.)
Kicking off June 14th, the 17th annual Shanghai Film Festival looms over the horizon, and there is already much news being made of the wide range of international films and celebrities to appear at the event. Boasting appearances from a diverse array of stars from all over the world, along with around 900 films to be screened in 35 theatres, and a jury headed by Chinese star Gong Li, this year looks set to make industry waves.
Adding more than a fair share of glamour, many famous American faces including Natalie Portman, Hugh Grant, and Nicole Kidman are expected to make an appearance at the festival, joined by a bevy of mainland stars like Jackie Chan, and Li Bingbing, along with Hong Kong director John Woo.
Underscored by Chinese film companies’ recent international dealmaking with businesses from Hollywood and other locations, the film festival’s screens will not only be host to many new and classic foreign films, but will also feature a sign of the times at the festival’s closing: a screening of the new Transformers: Age of Extinction, which has featured extensive involvement from the mainland.
While the new Transformers picture is not a co-production, the film’s business model was designed from the ground-up with the Chinese market in mind. China’s incredible enthusiasm for all things Transformers has resulted in a sprees of marketing campaigns for each of the franchise’s releases, including events like the recent Transformers Expo in Chinese vacation favorite Macau.
In light of the mainland’s transforming robot love, the film’s production company Paramount has teamed up with China Movie Media Group (CMMG) to market the its release in China. In a sign of future international initiatives, CMMG has established its own office in Hollywood.
Continuing China’s co-production momentum, a new international deal with England has been inked for a historical epic. The slated film will chronicle the later life of British runner Eric Liddell, who became a missionary in China and eventually perished in Japanese prison camps during World War II.
Also this week, provisional talks have begun with Indian delegates to discuss co-production deals and the potential for the country to gain a couple of slots in China’s foreign film import quota. On this note, next month will see the mainland release of Indian actioner Dhoom 3. As opposed to a deal in which the two countries share revenues, the film’s business plan entails a flat fee to the film’s producers and has been fueled by a recent wave of the pirating of Indian films in the Chinese market.
China’s Bona Film has given information about its next slate of foreign imports, which, of course, are pending government approval. These include the official release of Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster 3D and the devastating Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave, which although violent, might be embraced by officials for showcasing America’s troubled history.
Although the actor seemed to be banned from China as a result of his role in the 1997 Hollywood feature Seven Years in Tibet, Brad Pitt was back in the country this week with wife Angelina Jolie to promote her film Maleficent. In another sign indicating the easing of tensions of association with the controversial film is that its director, Jean Jaques Annaud, is currently at work on a Chinese co-production backed by the state-run China Film Group.