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Thread: Chollywood rising

  1. #406
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    continued from previous

    “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has managed to become a huge success without China. Can mega-budgeted movies still survive if they don’t get an attractive release date in China, or is that film an exception?

    I think it’s an example of how they can do well, but it’s also an example of how they could have done better. Any studio executive would still prefer $1.9 billion [in global box office grosses] to $1.6 billion. The key question: As China becomes more and more of an uncertainty, does that change the budgets these movies are greenlit at? You can run a good business making $1.5 billion on a movie, but it may be a different equation than one that was expecting [to earn] $1.8 billion. “Spider-Man” is doing such gargantuan business, but I think it’s probably a little dicier for movies on the bubble. There have been a lot of expensive movies that China has meant the difference between profit and loss.

    Hollywood is laser-focused on streaming. How does that change the film industry’s reliance on China?

    It’s bifurcated things a bit. If streaming is going to mean that theatrical releases are reserved for the biggest of the big movies, that makes China more powerful in that department. But if there’s this other part of the business that’s really streaming oriented, that does reduce reliance because a lot of streaming content from studios doesn’t get into China. The business model is different whenever you’re trying to count subscriptions and not box office tickets. In one bucket, it has allowed China to retain power, but in another, China is a little irrelevant. Will a Disney Plus try to get into China? This traditionally has not worked out, but we keep learning time and time again that 1.4 billion consumers are impossible to ignore.

    U.S. ticket sales are split roughly 50-50 between studios and theater operators. With China, studios only get 25% of revenues, but in return they don’t pay for marketing or distribution. Since it’s a notably smaller percentage, are those receipts mostly inflating the global box office figure or are they actually beneficial to film studios?

    It’s mostly the latter. It’s not pure profit, but it’s much closer [to that] than what they get in the U.S. For a long time, studios were lobbying to the U.S. government and the MPA [Motion Picture Association] to do something about that. The 25% term was set in 2012, when China was a fraction of the market it is today. A lot of folks in Hollywood think China is allowed to operate on developing market rules, despite being a massively developed market. The 25%, while still a frustration, due to the intricacies of the dynamic — no marketing costs, things like that — it’s still found money. There’s comparatively much less work to do when you’re releasing a movie in China than another market.

    What do you make of censorship in other territories, like North Korea?

    We haven’t seen anything as dramatic as the North Korea hack. But the Chloe Zhao case last year was pretty high profile and extreme. A lot of folks will say, “Well, it’s the market reality. We censor movies for Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, airplanes.” The key difference is none have put the studios at odds with its own government. The U.S.-China rivalry is being called the story of the 21st century. It’s hard to ignore the fact that whenever decisions are being made, they are playing a role in this broader ideological debate.

    Since Netflix isn’t available in China, it is one of the few Hollywood companies without a vested interest in appeasing Chinese censors. Is that important?

    It’s a fascinating exception to the rule. It doesn’t seem like they’ll get into China, and it has given them this kind of freedom. As they censor elsewhere, they seem to not have to worry about China to the degree other studios have. It seems, so far, that just meant they’ll carry shows and documentaries that others wouldn’t touch. It doesn’t feel like it’s translated into a purposeful mission. I haven’t heard of Netflix saying, “We’re not in China, so let’s greenlight a bunch of content critical of China.” But it does seem to give them a license that other studios and tech companies moving into China don’t have.

    China recently restored the original “Fight Club” ending after censorship backlash. Were you surprised to see that reversal?

    We don’t necessarily see any kind of reaction to these things in China. It introduced a lot of Americans to what storytelling in China is like, with every movie trying to reach a moral equilibrium. It was like that in the U.S. for a while when Hollywood was much more religiously influenced. There had to be consequences for bad actions. But China takes that to another level. Most Chinese moviegoers see through this. I don’t think there are a lot of Chinese moviegoers streaming “Fight Club” and not seeing what [the revised ending] is all about. I would talk to people who would say things like, “I thought it was pretty good for a propaganda movie.” There’s more awareness that Americans can acknowledge. It’s not like people are seeing a movie and then being like, “Oh, thank God the Chinese government stopped Tyler Durden.

    This interview has been edited and condense for clarity.
    This looks like a good read.
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  2. #407
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    Atlantic coverage

    How China Captured Hollywood


    A giant statue from 'Kong: Skull Island' movie displayed in Guangzhou, China in 2017. (Anadolu Agency / Getty)
    FEBRUARY 8, 2022

    In the weeks following the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, a group of Chinese executives traveled to Los Angeles for a crash course in influence. Inside the UCLA classroom of the film professor Robert Rosen, a parade of Hollywood executives conducted a series of lectures on America’s entertainment industry. The students had been chosen by their country’s State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, and they were in Los Angeles with a mandate: to learn how the American film industry had achieved its status as the leader in global culture—and how China could re-create that achievement back home.

    The head of Universal Pictures, the studio behind Frankenstein, Back to the Future, and The Fast and the Furious, spoke about his film operation, a conglomerate grown out of a collection of nickelodeons founded in 1912. So did the CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a company that was established before the talkie and eventually produced The Wizard of Oz, West Side Story, and The Silence of the Lambs. An agent at William Morris, the talent agency that counts Matt Damon and Denzel Washington as clients, talked about how he managed America’s biggest movie stars. An independent producer explained the art of putting a movie’s finances together, and the head of the Motion Picture Association of America detailed his organization’s lobbying work in Washington on behalf of the nation’s entertainers. It was hard to imagine a more glamorous set of day jobs, positions that turned the men and women who held them into stewards and emissaries of American culture.


    This piece is excerpted from Schwartzel’s recent book.
    That China would send officials to Los Angeles to learn from America’s most famous capitalist enterprise would have been unthinkable in prior decades, when the Cultural Revolution and the massacre of protesters at Tiananmen Square left little doubt about the government’s attitude toward free expression. Yet China in 2008 was ascendant, even if that rise occurred out of view of many Americans—including many in Hollywood, where the country’s work was just beginning. At the time, the Chinese visitors’ unassuming exterior masked incredible power. One young executive worked at a movie channel that had 800 million viewers, a scale beyond what any of his Hollywood instructors could fathom.

    In a matter of years, the positioning of the two parties in that classroom—the Chinese as students and the Hollywood executives as teachers—would seem both prescient and absurd, the dynamic soon to reverse, with Hollywood looking to China for help.

    Consider the future of the entities represented in that classroom alone. Within a decade of those classes, Universal would complete a $500 million financing deal with a Chinese firm, cast Chinese actresses in its biggest movies, and construct a Universal theme park near Beijing. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would shop itself for a Chinese takeover and censor James Bond movies to make sure Chinese citizens never looked weak when matched against England’s ageless secret agent. William Morris would open an office in China to help the country’s new class of A-listers win over global audiences. Producers would rewrite scripts, trading New York for Shanghai if it meant getting a movie financed by Chinese billionaires. The MPAA and other officials in Washington would do anything they could to maintain access to the fast-growing Chinese box office as domestic moviegoing flatlined.

    Chinese theaters were largely closed off to the world until 1994, when Hollywood studios were allowed to export 10 movies a year to the country. At the time, $3 million represented a record-setting gross in China. Even when those Chinese students arrived at UCLA, the market was growing but still a bundle of optimistic projections. By 2020, though, China had become the No. 1 box-office market in the world, home to grosses that routinely neared $1 billion—a market that became too big to ignore and too lucrative to anger. Through it all, China would continue to see Hollywood much as those early visitors did: as the ultimate template for building a show business that helped fuel a country’s rise, their goal a 21st-century sequel to what America’s entertainers had done for their country over the course of 100 years.

    Ijoined the los angeles bureau of The Wall Street Journal in the summer of 2013, hired to be a fresh set of eyes on the Journal’s Hollywood coverage, and I soon started seeing China everywhere I looked.

    One announcement followed another: The Chinese star Fan Bingbing had been cast in the new X-Men. An American theater chain headquartered in Leawood, Kansas, was trading on Wall Street thanks to financing from China’s richest man. Paramount Pictures was rushing to edit World War Z to remove a scene implying that a zombie outbreak had originated in China. Seemingly every producer in town was shopping a script based on the Flying Tigers, the World War II pilots who helped defend China against Japan. Moviegoers in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao were flocking to see the latest Transformers, sending millions of dollars in unexpected grosses back to its studio on Melrose Avenue.

    To many observers, this was another round of “dumb money” flowing into Hollywood, long an industry capable of wooing investors with stardust. When I learned that a government agenda out of Beijing was actually backing the efforts—an agenda clear for anyone to see—I realized that this would not be a case of fleeting interest.

    China’s economic leverage had quickly translated into political sway, most often in the censorship practiced by Beijing bureaucrats. Unbeknownst to most moviegoers, studios were removing scenes and dialogue from scripts and finished movies to appease Chinese censors—scrubbing any production of plot points that brushed up against sensitive Chinese history or made the country look anything less than a modern, sophisticated world power. Even more disturbing than the movies being changed were the ones not getting made at all, for fear of angering Chinese officials. Hollywood became a commercial arm for China’s new ambition, and piece by piece, China’s interest in the American film industry revealed itself to be a complement to its political ascendance, one that is rewriting the global order of the new century.
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  3. #408
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    Continued from previous post

    The story of this unexpected relationship can be told in three acts. It begins with the founding of Hollywood itself, an industry of workaday seamstresses and actors that transformed into a powerhouse that pulled the world toward the United States. Hollywood became America’s No. 1 export, shipping the swagger of John Wayne, the resistance heroes of Star Wars, and the romantic sweep of Titanic around the world. For politicians, the movies became a vehicle of influence—especially so in China, which began to permit Hollywood films into its theaters in the 1990s as part of a broader modernizing effort. Economics bested Communist Party instincts to hide dangerous thoughts from its people, generating box-office grosses that would prove indispensable to American studio executives.

    The second act is the collision that followed, a decade during which Hollywood vulnerabilities met Chinese ambition. Out of nowhere appeared a market with 1.4 billion potential customers—a population of spenders that one Hollywood executive described to me as “a great national resource.” Accessing that resource would require bowing to censorship demands and navigating political land mines to build a theme park or secure Chinese financing. Throughout this period, Chinese producers and politicians maintained the student-teacher relationship evident in that UCLA classroom, turning to Hollywood experts for help building a commercial film industry of their own, one that transformed the theatrical propaganda of previous generations into popcorn entertainment.

    The third act focuses the spotlight on China, where President Xi Jinping presides over a movie industry that has become an essential arm of a recast Middle Kingdom, a business modeled after America’s but molded to account for the Communist Party’s expectation that art will serve the state. The filmography of China in recent years has given its audiences what Americans have taken for granted: stories about people who look like them, who work and play in a country claiming a moment in history. Now China is trying to complete the hardest piece of the puzzle: shipping those movies overseas—and with them the values and vision that they embody and the alternative mode of governance to Western liberal democracy that they promote. As China redraws the geopolitical alignments of the world, it wants to use its movies to redraw the cultural borders atop them.


    Paramount Pictures / Sunset Boulevard / Corbis / Getty
    The arc of china’s influence is evident in a single Hollywood franchise, Top Gun, in which the geopolitical tensions of the next century came to be reflected in a two-inch patch sewn onto a movie star’s costume.

    The original 1986 film is a hallmark of Ronald Reagan’s America—Tom Cruise as the aviator-wearing daredevil Maverick, Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” the hero declaring, “I feel the need …” In a sign of how deeply the film saw itself as a celebration of the U.S. Navy, producers asked the military to cooperate on the picture and acceded to its wishes to make the movie a robust demonstration of American military might. They scrapped a scene involving a crash and turned Maverick’s love interest, originally a fellow Navy member, into a contractor so audiences didn’t see the hero breaking rules about relationships among personnel. Moviegoers didn’t mind the jingoism; they wanted to watch their country’s naval aviators pull off awesome stunts and save the day. Top Gun grossed $177 million in North America, more than any other movie released that year. It also did what years of state-produced recruitment videos could not, boosting young men and women’s interest in joining the armed forces. Recruiters waited in theater lobbies to catch moviegoers on their way out of the film. (Ray-Ban sales shot up too.)

    In 2017, Paramount Pictures announced that it would reboot Top Gun with its original star, another example of Hollywood’s effective strategy of bathing audiences in nostalgia. But much about the global film market had changed in the intervening years. Top Gun: Maverick, as the sequel would be called, was so expensive that studio chiefs approved its production with accounting projections that assumed its global gross would include Chinese ticket sales. What’s more, some of that $150 million budget came courtesy of Skydance Media, a Los Angeles film and TV company partially financed by Tencent, the Chinese tech firm behind China’s most popular messaging app. Chinese money was backing the new Top Gun in two ways: in financing behind the scenes and in expected box-office grosses once it hit theaters there.

    This all explains what happened to Tom Cruise’s jacket. In the original film, Maverick’s bomber featured a patch that highlighted the U.S.S. Galveston’s tour of Japan, Taiwan, and other countries in the Pacific, with flags from those countries below his collar. Chinese investors on the new movie pointed out to Skydance executives that those 1986 patches now posed a problem: China has long argued that Taiwan—a self-ruling island off the coast of the mainland—is a renegade province, and has insisted that it will be reintegrated into China. Having a global movie star flaunt Taiwan’s flag on his back undermined Chinese sovereignty. And given China’s decades-long animosity toward Japan, the studio executives reasoned that they should play it safe and erase that patch too.

    When Paramount unveiled the poster for Top Gun: Maverick in the summer of 2019, it showed Cruise from the back, his signature brown leather jacket in focus and the flags of Taiwan and Japan—U.S. allies in real life—removed. Chinese officials did not even have to weigh in. By 2019, Hollywood had so fully absorbed Beijing’s political preferences that such decisions were made by teams in Los Angeles months, or even years, before Chinese officials would weigh in. If it could help Paramount executives make their case to Chinese censors that Top Gun should show in Chinese theaters, Maverick’s bomber would adhere to the One China policy.

    What happened between the two Top Guns is a story with implications that stretch far beyond the entertainment industry. Hollywood’s experience has served as a precursor for numerous American industries and companies trying to do business in China, including Apple and the National Basketball Association. In the months following the coronavirus outbreak, China’s economic recovery proved a financial salvation for struggling companies across numerous sectors, further boosting the country’s leverage.

    China’s omnipresence onscreen reflects the country’s increasing ubiquity in business and in other parts of the world. That ubiquity has also exported a worldwide fear of crossing China. These concerns only grew as tensions between the U.S. and China escalated during Donald Trump’s administration and Xi’s aggressive crackdown on dissent. As China loomed large in the collective imagination, the lives and experiences of individual Chinese citizens were lost in many sweeping geopolitical analyses. Those deeply involved in Hollywood’s economic relationship with China grew quiet too, worried not only about losing their business but also about graver consequences: being called in for questioning, getting thrown out of the country, disappearing.

    In early 2020, I had lunch at a vegan restaurant blocks from Warner Bros. with an executive who worked in China. Before we could begin talking, she turned off her cellphone and put it in her purse underneath the table. When that didn’t assuage her fears, she took her purse to the other side of the restaurant and asked the staff to keep it behind the counter. She then wondered if she should go put it in her car, because she’d heard that the Chinese government could surveil a conversation even from across the room. Chinese paranoia had infiltrated Burbank.

    By pressuring Hollywood and its own entertainment industry, China could displace the American film industry as the chief narrator of the 21st century. Hollywood, by maintaining warm relations with the regime, has bolstered China’s campaign for global influence with American movies that either turn every portrayal of the country into a state-sanctioned commercial or avoid anything that challenges how Xi’s party sees the world.

    In some cases, the rise of China’s entertainment industry has deepened our understanding of a country and culture that remain misunderstood, even demonized. In more insidious cases, it has braided a censorious agenda into moviemaking, corrupting America’s most effective tool for selling democracy and free expression to the world. Over this next century, China wants to use the movies to rebrand itself, and it has learned how to do so from the best. All of this has happened before our very eyes.
    More on Red Carpet here.
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  4. #409
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    slippage

    Mar 13, 2022 8:28pm PT
    China Box Office Slips to Lowest Weekend of the Year as COVID Resurfaces


    By Patrick Frater

    ©Raymond Depardon / Magnum Photo
    Mainland China’s theatrical box office slipped to its lowest weekend total of the year as the market suffered a combination of rising COVID cases and a lack of new releases.

    Nationwide box office between Friday and Sunday amounted to just $19.2 million, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway. It was the fifth weekend of decline since the splashy opening of eight major titles on Feb. 1 for the Lunar New Year holidays.

    “The Battle at Lake Changjin II,” which dominated proceedings at New Year, remained at the top of the chart for the sixth consecutive weekend. It earned a lowly $4.6 million over three days for a cumulative total of $635 million.

    Recent days have witnessed a surge in coronavirus cases in China that has caused the return of restrictions in major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen as well as epicenters Jilin and Changchun in the Northeast.

    On Sunday, mainland authorities reported a total of 3,100 new locally transmitted cases of the disease in people who have symptoms and those who do not (China’s official count does not include asymptomatic cases as confirmed) and started to allow the results of rapid antigen tests in its data set. These are the highest daily figures in China in two years.

    China is operating a zero-COVID policy which entails largely closed borders, mass vaccination and localized lockdowns. Mainland China has reported 112,000 infections since the beginning of the outbreak in January 2020 and 4,635 deaths. Some 1.24 billion people have received at least one vaccination shot.

    It has been reported locally that some cinemas in Shanghai and Shenzhen were closed in response to the latest spikes. But a nationwide closure of movie theaters, like the five and a half month disruption in 2020, has so far been avoided.

    Another factor in the slumping box office is likely to be a continuing shortage of major new films. The weekend’s highest new entry was the fourth-placed “Do You Love Me As I Love You?”. The film is a Taiwan-produced romance that released in other Chinese-speaking parts of Asia in the third quarter of 2020.

    Monday sees the release in China of “Uncharted,” timed to give it a shot at the one day Qingming festival. And, if COVID conditions do not cause widespread cinema closures, Friday will see the release of “The Batman.”

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  5. #410
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    PRC cinemas closing again...

    Maybe The Batman won't dethrone TB@LC2...

    ‘The Batman’ Headed for Weak China Opening Amid COVID Outbreak, Cinema Closures
    Amid fraught geopolitics and virus-related release challenges, Hollywood studio films are earning a fraction of past China grosses.

    BY PATRICK BRZESKI, KAREN CHU
    MARCH 15, 2022 8:27PM

    The Batman COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES™ & DC COMICS
    Hollywood can’t seem to catch a break in China lately. Just as U.S. studio tentpoles were beginning to return to the country at scale, a COVID outbreak spanning two thirds of China’s provinces is shuttering cinemas and casting a pall over local consumer activity all over again.

    Approximately 30 percent of all Chinese movie theaters have been temporarily closed over the past week, according to exhibition industry consultancy Artisan Gateway. The regions hardest hit include major population centers like Shanghai and Shenzhen.

    Locally transmitted COVID cases rose on Tuesday by more than 5,000 new infections nationwide. While low by Western standards, the current outbreak represents China’s largest caseload since the pandemic first emerged in Wuhan in 2020. Local officials are scrambling to maintain their “COVID zero” policy of total eradication of the virus, resorting to their usual playbook of mass mandatory testing and the total shutdown of cities comprising tens of millions of residents.

    If Beijing leaders fail to get a handle on the infection surge soon, economists warn that China’s growing response could result in major supply chain snarls in the world’s manufacturing base, further jeopardizing the global economic recovery.

    Within the movie sector, box office analysts had been looking forward to the China release of Warner Bros’ The Batman on Friday for some indication of the country’s current appetite for U.S. superhero fare. A source close to the film, however, tells The Hollywood Reporter that the latest tracking suggests an opening of just $15 million to $20 million, down from earlier projections in the $25 million to $30 million range.

    “Our optimistic assessment is that Warners will be lucky if The Batman opens above RMB 100 million ($15.7 million),” adds James Li, co-founder of Beijing-based film industry market research firm Fanink, which has been tracking the title. “On the pessimistic side, they may be lucky to get half that,” he says. “There are four tier-one cities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen), and these are the major markets where moviegoers tend to be the most pro-Hollywood — and half of them are currently shut down.”

    Domestically, The Batman has earned $245 million, with the worldwide total sitting at about $472 million.

    Director Matt Reeves’ take on Gotham’s dark knight is somber in tone and runs nearly three hours long, hence the rather modest original sales expectations. But the film will be the first U.S. superhero movie to open in China in nearly a year and half, after local regulators passed on the release of the last five Marvel tentpoles (Black Widow, Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Spider-Man: No Way Home) due to suspected political reasons. Hopes were high that The Batman might give the studios some hint of their former glory in the massive China market.

    Sony and Tom Holland’s Uncharted is similarly struggling in China amid the theater closures and diminished interest in U.S. moviemaking. The action adventure film has earned $114 million in North America and $302 million worldwide so far. But it has brought in just $4.5 million in China since its opening on Monday and local ticketing app Maoyan projects it to finish locally with just $13.2 million.

    Chinese consumers’ declining enthusiasm for U.S. moviemaking is becoming increasingly unmistakable. After a decade of pulling in enormous blockbuster grosses from China, the only Hollywood films to earn over $100 million in the country in the past two years plus were Legendary Entertainment’s Godzilla Versus Kong and Universal’s F9: The Fast Saga. Meanwhile, more than 20 Chinese titles have sailed past the $100 million mark during that same period, and the very biggest local blockbusters have earned more than $500 million a piece.

    Other upcoming Hollywood titles headed to China in the weeks ahead include Roland Emmerich’s disaster action film Moonfall (March 25), Sony’s animation sequel Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (April 3) and Warner Bros’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (April 8).

    “Over the past two years, the Hollywood brand has definitely taken a hit in China — for a variety of reasons related to supply, the actions of authorities and local market dynamics,” says Li. “It’s going to take some time and strong marketing effort to re-engage Chinese consumers around the Hollywood brand.”

    There is some concern in the mainland Chinese industry that the plight of neighboring Hong Kong could foreshadow what’s to come if health officials aren’t able to tamp down the current COVID outbreak soon.

    The omicron variant arrived in Hong Kong near the start of the year and local cinemas were closed on January 7 as infection caseloads skyrocketed. The suspension came on the heels of a strong box-office recovery in the semi-autonomous city, with Spider-Man: No Way Home taking more than $14 million in just two weeks in December 2021. A month after cinemas were ordered to suspend business, two major multiplexes – Broadway Hollywood and Cinema City Victoria – announced their permanent closure as their leases ended. Although the box office returns in Hong Kong in 2021 showed 125 percent growth compared to 2020, from $69 million to $155 million in total sales, the latest outbreak has decimated the local exhibition business. The theater industry missed out on the lucrative Lunar New Year holiday season in February, and the Hong Kong releases of West Side Story, Death on the Nile and The Batman, originally scheduled for January, February and March 2022, respectively, were all scrapped. The local government has indicated that reopening theaters won’t be considered until at least April 20.

    Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.
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    Dumbledore

    China Box Office: ‘Fantastic Beasts 3’ Opens to $10M Amid Mass Cinema Shutdowns
    Approximately 54 percent of Chinese movie theaters are currently closed as the country battles local COVID outbreaks.

    BY PATRICK BRZESKI

    APRIL 10, 2022 10:41PM

    COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES

    Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore cruised to an easy win during its opening weekend in China, but the prize was smaller than usual.

    The Harry Potter spinoff sequel earned just $9.7 million, according to data from Artisan Gateway. Thanks to ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks, an estimated 54 percent of China’s cinemas are currently closed.

    The first Fantastic Beasts film opened to $40.4 million in China in 2016, and the sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, debuted to $36.6 million in 2018.

    Social scores for the Secrets of Dumbledore were solid, if unexceptional: 8.7 on Maoyan, 8.7 from Alibaba’s Taopiaopiao and 6.7 on Douban.

    The film performed somewhat better on Imax, earning $1.5 million in the giant-screen format, or 15 percent of its nationwide total. Dumbledore played on 360 Imax screens, roughly half of Imax’s usual outlay.

    In recent months and years, Hollywood titles have been earning conspicuously less than they once did in China, but the current COVID closures make it difficult to assess whether the general trend of waning local enthusiasm for U.S. movies was also a factor in Dumbledore’s lackluster opening.

    Sony’s animated sequel Hotel Transylvania 4 earned just $1.4 million in its second weekend for a running total of $6.2 million. Hotel Transylvania 3 (2018) earned $32.2 million in China.

    Other U.S.-made titles added similarly tiny sums. Escape Room 2, in cinemas for its second weekend, added $940,000, taking its total to $5.2 million. Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall, which was co-financed by Chinese studio Huayi Brothers Media, added $900,000. The film has earned $19.4 million since its local release late last month — slightly better than its $19.1 million North American total.
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  7. #412
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    Cannes sans Chine

    May 17, 2022 8:00pm PT
    India Takes Over the Cannes Market as Chinese Executives Are Stuck at Home

    By Naman Ramachandran, Patrick Frater

    L'Oreal

    India is the country of honor at the Cannes Film Market and consequently a massive contingent from the country is descending upon the Croisette. Variety understands that some 400 attendees are winging their way from India, and that French embassies across the country were working at capacity to issue visas.

    That stands in contrast with the attendance from other parts of Asia, further East. Attendance of participants from Hong Kong and China is massively down compared with pre-COVID times. Korean companies are back in respectable numbers, with some attending a physical market outside their home country for the first time in over two years. The solid attendance of Korean executives also reflects the selection of Korean films across multiple sections of the festival.

    “I’m very excited to be back in Cannes, it has been three years for us,” said Danny Lee, senior manager at Contents Panda, part of the Next Entertainment World studio. “There are many Korean buyers here too.”

    The government-mandated travel restrictions that persist in Hong Kong (compulsory quarantine is down to a week now, having previously been 21 days, but the government maintains an aggressive approach towards airlines that carry passengers later found to be COVID positive) mean that flight conditions and the ability to return home are simply too uncertain for many.

    That in turn deprives the Cannes Market of executives from what was previously the hub of Asian sales and film finance — even if that role has been somewhat eroded by the increasing maturity of the mainland Chinese film industry and the prominence of the Korean industry.

    Hong Kong companies including Golden Network and Good Move Media are not attending, and will instead attempt to launch films and maintain business relations remotely. Others, including Edko Films and Media Asia, are making the effort and will be present.

    “We have a big-budget film ‘Kowloon Walled City’ to sell. Given how difficult it is currently to pre-sell Asian films, we need to talk to people in person,” said Fred Tsui, GM, head of sales and international co-production at Media Asia.

    China has limited in- and out-bound travel for months, as it seeks to achieve a COVID-zero policy through lockdowns, mass testing and border controls. This week it imposed its most stringent travel restrictions for decades, banning all but essential overseas travel.

    That leaves Cannes without the mainland Chinese companies which, in pre-COVID years, had regularly grabbed headlines. They were not necessarily volume buyers, but were previously involved in large package deals and big-budget co-productions. Other Chinese firms were looking to invest in international IP that could be exploited across multiple media.

    The COVID era, however, has coincided with a more generalized slowdown of the Chinese film market and a politically directed retrenchment towards local content. That makes it difficult to quantify China’s loss to Cannes.

    But, it is perhaps more than symbolic that Wednesday’s Cannes Market opening party, is this year sponsored by India. China had been its sponsor for several years.

    Anurag Thakur, India’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting, will inaugurate the Indian Pavilion in the presence of actor R. Madhavan, whose directorial debut “Rocketry” is premiering at the market; filmmaker Shekhar Kapur; Prasoon Joshi and Vani Tripathi from the Central Board of Film Certification; Grammy-winner Ricky Kej; and a plethora of actors including Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Pooja Hegde, Tamannaah Bhatia and Aditi Rao Hydari.

    Bollywood A-lister Akshay Kumar was due to be at the pavilion inauguration, but contracted COVID.

    India will be prominently visible throughout the festival this year. Actor Deepika Padukone is on the jury for the main feature film competition. Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman’s directorial debut, “Le Musk,” is premiering at the market’s Cannes XR program. Indian filmmaker Shaunak Sen’s Sundance grand jury prize winning documentary “All That Breathes” is showing as a special screening. And Indian auteur Satyajit Ray’s “The Adversary” (1970) and Aravindan Govindan’s “The Circus Tent” will be screened at the festival’s Cannes Classics strand.

    TV star Helly Shah will walk the red carpet for L’Oreal and also promote her film debut “Kaya Palat.” Multihyphenate Kamal Haasan will be present to promote his new film “Vikram.” There will be plenty of first looks unveiled, including for Shyam Benegal’s “Mujib: The Making of a Nation,” the biopic of late Bangladeshi leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, for which top Bangladeshi star Nusrat Imrose Tisha is expected alongside her filmmaker partner Mostofa Sarwar Farooki. Bangladeshi director/producer Abu Shahed Emon is also due at Cannes. First looks are also being unveiled for Pushan Kripalani’s “Goldfish” and Sandeep Singh’s “Safed.”

    “When you are a country of honor at the world’s largest film market you are on the radar of the Western world — it could be because of your creativity and international appeal, or maybe because of business potential and mass audience reach. We seem to be better-known for the latter,” said Samir Sarkar, who is co-producing Cannes’ La Fabrique project selection “Starfruits” via his Indo-Singaporean outfit Magic Hour Films.

    “As far as our creativity and international appeal goes, it’s time we nurture and support those filmmakers that can take Indian cinema into something more meaningful and successful for world audiences,” Sarkar added.

    From Pakistan, Saim Sadiq’s feature debut “Joyland,” produced, among others, by Indian-origin Apoorva Guru Charan, is premiering at the festival’s Un Certain Regard strand.
    Cannes
    Chollywood-rising
    covid
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  8. #413
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    Chollywood sinking

    China Box Office Shrinks 38 Percent in First Half of 2022, North America Regains Top Spot
    North America is on track to reclaim the crown as the world's biggest theatrical movie market this year as COVID lockdowns and fewer Hollywood releases continue to weigh on ticket sales in China.


    BY PATRICK BRZESKI

    JULY 5, 2022 5:00AM



    After two, brief years of dominance, China is surrendering the global box office crown back to North America in 2022.

    During the darkest days of the pandemic for Hollywood, when most major tentpoles were put on hold or shifted to streaming, China swept past the U.S. in total ticket sales for the first time in movie history in 2020. The country repeated the feat last year, notching $7.3 billion in ticket revenue compared to just $4.5 billion in North America.

    But the first half of 2022 has delivered a very different picture. Ticket sales in China totaled only $2.6 billion over the past six months, down 38 percent from the same period in 2021, according to data from exhibition industry consultancy Artisan Gateway. China’s strict “COVID-zero” approach to the pandemic continued to weigh on moviegoing in the country, as major population centers like Shenzhen and Shanghai were plunged into citywide lockdowns in response to omicron flareups. Frosty political relations between Washington and Beijing and an increasingly repressive political climate in China also resulted in fewer Hollywood films being granted release dates there, limiting the volume and frequency of bankable product on offer.

    Total sales revenue in North America, meanwhile, made a healthy comeback in the first half of the year, as the studios began restoring exclusive theatrical windows for their biggest releases and pandemic restrictions shifted to the background of civic life. Thanks to huge domestic performances from blockbusters like Top Gun: Maverick ($571 million and counting) and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($410 million) — two titles that were denied release dates in China for vague political reasons — North American ticket revenue reached $3.6 billion in H1 2022, up from just $1 billion during the same period in 2021, according to Artisan Gateway’s estimates (sales are still trailing the pre-pandemic period, however; H1 2019 revenue was $5.7 billion).

    The bad news for Hollywood is that U.S. studio films are earning less in China than they have in nearly a decade, despite the theatrical comeback stateside and elsewhere in the world. Tickets sales for Hollywood studio films totaled only $400 million in China in H1, a decline from $700 million last year — and prior to the pandemic, U.S. movies sold $1.9 billion worth of tickets in China in the first half of 2019.

    “Pandemic control measures limited China’s H1 2022 gross box office and admissions to 2014-2015 levels, about 57.8 percent of pre-pandemic 1H 2019,” notes Rance Pow, president of Artisan Gateway. “And the gap between Chinese and imported films’ market share widened,” Pow adds, noting that Chinese-language films earned $2.2 billion over the past six months compared to the U.S. studios’ comparatively slight $400 million China take.

    China’s box office has been as top-heavy as ever so far this year, with eight films comprising 60 percent of total revenue. The biggest earners were Bona Film Group’s nationalistic war epic The Battle at Lake Changjin II ($626 million), Xing Wenxiong’s Chinese comedy caper Too Cool To Kill ($217 million) and Wen Muye’s hit drama Nice View ($211 million).

    Top Gun: Maverick‘s domestic total (now $571 million) could eventually catch up to Battle at Lake Changjin II‘s impressive China haul of $626 million — it’s a close race of rival propagandistic war films in terms of biggest home market sales total. But China still presents no challenge whatsoever to Hollywood moviemaking on a global basis. While Maverick has earned $544.5 million outside of North America (without a China release), Battle at Lake Changjin II has brought in less than $1 million from beyond China’s borders.

    Artisan Gateway currently forecasts China’s box office to finish 2022 with approximately $5.2 billion (RMB 35 billion) in total revenue. Any earnings over that figure will be driven by the number and quality of imported films Beijing regulators decide to allow into the market, the company says. Many analysts expect North American ticket revenue to top $7.5 billion this year.

    The big Chinese titles that are expected to drive local sales in the second half of the year include: Chen Sicheng’s sci-fi family comedy Mozart in Space (Wanda Media), Alibaba Pictures’ sci-fi Moon Man, comedy thriller Advancing of ZQ (Fun Age); the first film in Beijing Culture’s fantasy franchise Fenshen Trilogy, 3D animation New Gods: Yang Jian (Light Chaser), sci-fi adventure Deep Sea (Beijing Enlight), the long gestating Hong Kong sci-fi Warriors of Future (Media Asia), crime sequel The White Storm 3 (Universe Entertainment), and Bona Film Group’s latest nationalistic epics Anonymous and Ordinary Hero.
    Interesting twist
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  9. #414
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    The tables have turned...

    Jul 4, 2022 9:44pm PT
    Dire Warning Sounded as Hong Kong Film Industry Slowdown Continues


    By Patrick Frater


    Courtesy of Celestial Tiger Entertainment
    The once vibrant Hong Kong film industry is struggling to recover from the effects of COVID and related problems, a local report has warned.

    The report identified problems with theatrical box office, local production, co-production with mainland China and film investment.

    The Motion Picture Industry Association and Hong Kong Box Office Ltd. regular half year report showed that cinemas in the city had been closed for 104 days this year, including Chinese New Year and Easter, both normally peak periods. Capacity restrictions remain in place as city authorities waver between trying to reopen the economy and a ‘dynamic zero’ COVID policy.

    Actual cinema revenues in the first six month were little changed at HK$357 million ($45.5 million), compared with HK$376 million ($47.9 million). But only because the first half of 2021 was similarly affected by restrictions and cinemas were only open for 48 days.

    The organizations note that box office takings were 66% lower than the $134 million registered in the first six months of 2019, the most recent pre-COVID year.

    Just 73 films opened in the city’s cinemas during the first half of 2022, the vast majority of which were foreign imports.

    “It can be seen that the Hong Kong film industry, including production and theatrical distribution sectors, have been very seriously affected by the epidemic,” the report says.

    “Film production staff have been infected and cannot shoot. Actors and production teams in Hong Kong and [mainland] China are affected by 14 conditions, such as quarantine, which have affected the progress of works and discouraged investors, resulting in a sharp drop in production since 2021,” the report says. In recent years, large numbers of Hong Kong-initiated films have been co-produced with Mainland China partners or finance, meaning that conditions across the border have a spill-over effect in Hong Kong.

    “Only six Hong Kong films were released in the first half of 2022. Output is low. Box office has plummeted. And no [local] film achieved HK$1 million in theaters, which is a miserable outcome,” the report continues.

    In its heyday between the 1970s and 1990s, the Hong Kong film industry produced over 300 movies per year, including many in different Chinese dialects. In the decade before COVID, Hong Kong film output had fluctuated between 50-70 movies per year and the city had retained a key position in film finance and rights sales.

    “The last Hong Kong government did not provide any support to the film industry, which is disappointing and a cause for complaint,” the report said. In fact, city authorities did provide direct subsidy to the cinema exhibition, but operators have been plagued with high rents and prolonged cinema closures and the cash injections did not prevent the collapse of the UA cinema chain in May 2021.

    “It is hoped that the current government and its new team will face up to the difficulties of the film sector and lend a helping hand,” said the report. That is a reference to Hong Kong’s sixth term government under Chief Executive John Lee which took effect from July 1, 2022.

    “Top Gun Maverick” was the top performing film of the period with HK$85.5 million ($11.1 million) to June 30. It was followed by “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” with a HK$65.5 million ($8.35 million) haul. In contrast, the top scoring Hong Kong-produced film was “Breakout Brothers 3,” with just HK$713,000 ($91,000) of theatrical revenue.
    How fitting that Top Gun Maverick champions Hollywood USA
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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