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Thread: Chollywood rising

  1. #316
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    Continued from previous post

    Last Letter - dir Shunji Iwai
    Japanese director Shunji Iwai’s first foray into Chinese-language cinema is produced by Peter Ho-sun Chan’s We Pictures and stars Zhou Xun, Qin Hao, Du Jiang and Wu Yanshu. Exploring similar themes to Iwai’s 1995 drama Love Letter, the film is a romantic drama revolving around two generations of characters and a series of letters that fall into the wrong hands. Chinese release is scheduled for November 9. Japan’s Toho is producing a Japanese-language version, also directed by Iwai, which is due to start production next summer.
    Contact: Andree Sham, We Distribution

    A Lifetime Treasure - dirs Mak Kai Kwong, Andrew Lam Man Chung
    Produced by Teddy Robin, this comedy is set in an old people’s home where the peace of an eccentric group of retirees is about to be shattered by a gangster out for revenge. Co-director Lam plays the retired doctor who runs the home, while the cast also includes Robin, Ivana Wong (Golden Chickens), Sammo Hung (My Beloved Bodyguard), Lam Suet (Trivisa) and Louis Cheung (Keeper Of Darkness). The film is in production for release over Chinese New Year 2019.
    Contact: Grace Chan, Entertaining Power Co

    Limbo - dir Soi Cheang
    Produced by Wilson Yip and Paco Wong, this $16m action drama stars Lam Ka Tung as a veteran detective and Mason Lee as a rookie cop, both on the trail of a serial killer. Cya Liu plays a woman who volunteers to work on the case as penance for killing the detective’s wife and child in an accident, although her embittered colleague can’t forgive her. The film is backed by Sun Entertainment Culture, Er Dong Pictures, Bona Film Group and Sil-Metropole Organization, and is in post-production.
    Contact: Chiu Yi Leung, Bravos Pictures

    Li Na - dir Peter Ho-sun Chan
    Chan’s highly anticipated biopic of mainland Chinese tennis champion Li Na is currently shooting in Wuhan for a tentative late 2019 or early 2020 release. The film is produced by Jojo Hui Yuet-chun and scripted by Zhang Ji, who also wrote Chan’s Dearest and American Dreams In China. The identity of the actress playing Li — who has been in training for two years in order to realistically portray Asia’s first Grand Slam singles champion — is being kept under wraps.
    Contact: Andree Sham, We Distribution

    Lost, Found - dir Lu Yue
    Yao Chen and Ma Yili star in this drama about a woman locked in a bitter custody battle with her ex-husband, whose daughter is kidnapped by the seemingly helpful nanny. A renowned cinematographer, Lu also has directing credits including Locarno Golden Leopard winner Mr Zhao (1998) and Thirteen Princess Trees (2006), which won a special jury prize at Tokyo International Film Festival. Lost, Found premiered at Shanghai International Film Festival and is currently on release in mainland China, where it has grossed more than $30m.
    Contact: Celia Hao, Huayi Brothers

    Mojin: The Worm Valley - dir Fei Xing
    Enlight Media is producing two $40m action adventure films based on the popular Ghost Blows Out The Light series of online novels: Mojin: The Worm Valley, which is in post-production for release before the end of the year, and Mojin: The Dragon Ridge, scheduled for release in 2019. Both films are directed by Fei Xing (Silent Witness) and star newcomers Cai Heng, Yu Heng, Gu Xuan and Chen Yusi. Huayi Brothers is distributing in China and handling international sales.
    Contact: Celia Hao, Huayi Brothers

    Reborn - dir Li Hai Long
    Han Geng, Rhydian Vaughan, Li Yuan and Japan’s Tomohisa Yama****a star in this thriller about a geeky programmer who is forced to become an undercover agent when he is dragged into a dangerous cyber game. Produced by Andre Morgan and Zoe Chen, the film has Nick Powell (Resident Evil: Retribution) on board as action director.
    Contact: Chiu Yi Leung, Bravos Pictures

    The Rookies - dir Alan Yuen
    Produced by China’s New Classics Media and Hong Kong’s Emperor Motion Pictures, this action adventure from Firestorm director Alan Yuen filmed in China and Hungary with a cast including Wang Talu (Our Times), Sandrine Pinna (Legend Of The Demon Cat) and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil series). The story follows an extreme sports enthusiast, a bumbling cop and her best friend who are dragged into the world of international espionage and tasked with preventing a terrorist mastermind from using weapons of mass destruction.
    Contact: Raymond Liu, Emperor Motion Pictures

    Shock Wave 2 (working title) - dir Herman Yau
    Andy Lau and director Herman Yau are reteaming on a sequel to their hit action drama Shock Wave, which grossed $63m in mainland China last year. The sequel, which features completely new characters in a related story, revolves around a bomb disposal officer who is injured in a blast and then named as a suspect in a terrorist bombing. Currently in pre-production, the film is scheduled to start shooting early next year.
    Contact: Mia Sin, Universe Films Distribution

    Silence Of Smoke - dir Yojiro Takita
    Best known as the director of Oscar-winning drama Departures, Japanese filmmaker Yojiro Takita is making his Chinese-language debut with this drama, co-produced by Media Asia and Magilm Pictures, which is currently shooting. Han Geng (So Young), Zhang Guoli (Back To 1942) and Summer Xu (Mr Six) head the cast of the film about a young cakemaker who takes over the family business but finds he can’t replicate his father’s success.
    Contact: Fred Tsui, Media Asia

    Unleashed - dirs Kwok Ka Hei, Ambrose Kwok
    Produced by Paco Wong, this drama follows an underground boxer and his vendetta with a former champion, who has recently been released from prison and is attempting to destroy his mentor’s boxing studio. In pre-production, the film has Chris Collins on board as action director and is set to star Ken Low (Paradox), Sun Zhen Feng, Zheng Zi Ping, Venus Wong and Fire Lee.
    Contact: Grace Chan, Entertaining Power Co

    The Whistleblower - dir Xue Xiaolu
    The director and star behind romantic comedy hit Finding Mr Right, Xue Xiaolu and Tang Wei, reunite for this China-Australia co-production, which is produced by Perfect Village Entertainment, Bill Kong’s Edko Films and Beijing Carving Films. Currently in post-production, The Whistleblower also stars Lei Jiayin (Guns And Roses) as a Chinese ex-pat in Australia who discovers a conspiracy at the company where he works.
    Contact: Julian Chiu, Edko Films

    The White Storm 2: Drug Lords (working title) - dir Herman Yau
    Following their collaboration on Shock Wave, director Herman Yau and actor/producer Andy Lau are reteaming on a sequel to Benny Chan’s 2013 action drama The White Storm. In post-production, the $25m film also stars Louis Koo, who starred in the original, Michael Miu, Karena Lam and Cherrie Ying. The story again revolves around cops battling drug dealers in the Hong Kong underworld.
    Contact: Mia Sin, Universe Films Distribution
    A Lifetime Treasure
    Mojin: The Worm Valley
    Shock Wave
    Unleashed
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  2. #317
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    Chollywood Rising is done

    I've changed the title of my column in our print magazine. Henceforth, in the wake of our WINTER 2019 issue, my movies/TV/media column is titled "Fast Forward to the Fight Scenes". As I explain in the issue, it's just a better fit as the term 'Chollywood' never really caught on enough to justify maintaining that title.

    Nevertheless, this here thread persists, and here's some Chollywood-rising-related news:
    JANUARY 3, 2019 4:28AM PT
    Chinese Movie Ticketing Giant Maoyan Presses On With IPO
    By PATRICK FRATER
    Asia Bureau Chief


    CREDIT: COURTESY OF MAOYAN

    Maoyan, one of China’s two largest movie ticket sales platforms, is warming up its plans for an IPO in Hong Kong. The company, which has the backing of Enlight, Tencent and Meituan Dianping, is believed to be aiming to raise about $300 million of fresh capital.

    Under the name Entertainment Plus, the company published an updated version of its prospectus Thursday following the acceptance of its application by local stock market regulators. That will allow it to begin actively marketing the share issue. An earlier draft was posted in September.

    The new draft does not specify the timetable or the number of shares to be issued. Local financial media reports have indicated that the share sale is considerably smaller than the $500 million-to-$1 billion scale indicated in September. At that point, the company indicated an overall valuation of $2.9 billion (HK$22.7 billion), and Hong Kong was leading the world in IPOs.

    Since that time, share markets in Asia have plunged. Price-to-earnings multiples and corporate valuations have been battered by fears of the U.S.-China trade war, mainland China’s economic slowdown, and investor uncertainty about the tech sector.

    China’s box office was reported this week as having grown by 9% in 2018, reaching $8.9 billion (RMB60.9 billion). Online sales, especially via mobile, account for more than 80% of cinema ticket transactions in China.

    With that kind of usage, ticketing platforms are also increasingly important vehicles for film marketing and promotion. Maoyan plans to use its IPO proceeds roughly equally to fund infrastructure and development R&D, to enrich its content offerings and services and to make acquisitions, according to the prospectus. It has already indicated the purchase of a minority stake in Huanxi Media.

    For the first nine months of 2018, Maoyan saw its revenues double to $446 million (RMB3.06 billion). Losses narrowed slightly in the January to end-September period to $21 million (RMB144 million).

    The company has joint sponsors including Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. China Renaissance is its financial advisor.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  3. #318
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    20 films over 5 years

    JANUARY 18, 2019 1:04AM PT
    Alibaba Pictures Buys Into Chinese Director Han Han’s Film Studio
    By REBECCA DAVIS


    "The Continent," directed by Chinese racer and blogger Han Han
    CREDIT: COURTESY OF DISTRIBUTION WORKSHOP

    Alibaba Pictures confirmed that it has invested an undisclosed amount in Chinese celebrity blogger-turned-film director Han Han’s Shanghai Tingdong Film. Han’s upcoming “Pegasus” is one of the most anticipated films of the year in China.

    Alibaba Pictures, part of e-commerce giant Alibaba, is now the second-largest stakeholder in Tingdong. It has a 13.1% stake, according to Chinese finance publication Caixin.

    The deal is a “long-term strategic partnership that covers content production, distribution and marketing, merchandise and artist management,” Alibaba told Variety on Thursday. It falls under the umbrella of a new initiative launched in November called the “Jin Cheng Co-Production Plan” — with “jin cheng” roughly translating in English to “golden orange.”

    Under this plan, Alibaba intends to co-produce 20 films over the next five years with various top production teams. The films will be released during China’s four busiest movie-going times: Chinese New Year (around January-February), the summer, the National Day holiday period in October and at the end of the year.

    A race-car driver who rose to fame as a satirical blogger and published his first bestselling novel at 17, Han, now 37, was hailed in his younger days as the voice of the post-Tiananmen generation of Chinese youth. He shifted to movies in 2014 with “The Continent,” a road-trip comedy that marked his first turn as screenwriter and director.

    He established Tingdong in 2015. The company has since produced five films that brought in about $355 million (RMB2.4 billion), Caixin said. The titles include “Duckweed,” a 2017 Chinese New Year hit written and directed by Han that grossed more than RMB1 billion ($148 million).

    Its latest feature, “Pegasus,” is scheduled for release Feb. 5, the first day of Chinese New Year celebrations, and already seems poised to beat out most of the competition. More than 280,000 people have indicated on ticketing platform Maoyan that they want to see the film, making it the most second-most hotly anticipated title out of the whopping 13 films lined up for release that same day.

    This is the third round of financing obtained by Tingdong since Han deployed a modest RMB15.2 million ($2.2 million) of startup capital. In February 2016, the company received tens of millions of yuan from Puhua Capital. And in October 2017, it received a $45.8 million (RMB310 million) joint investment from Bona Film, Chenhai Capital, and a Shanghai-based cultural center, the Beijing News cited the Tianyan business database as showing. The joint investment represented a 15.5% stake at the time, the Beijing News said, indicating that the company’s valuation had already reached $295 million by then (RMB2 billion).

    Information from Tianyan shows that on Jan. 9, Tingdong brought in Li Jie, senior VP of Alibaba Pictures and head of Alibaba’s ticketing platform Tao Piaopiao, as a company director. Han Han currently has 14 companies other than Tingdong registered in his name, ranging from film and TV outfits to cultural communications and tech, Tianyan shows.


    The first film to be released under Alibaba’s “Jin Cheng” plan is “Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year,” a co-production with Entertainment One that will hit theaters on Feb. 5 as well. Next in the plan’s lineup will be a 2020 fantasy suspense movie whose Chinese title translates to “The Assassination of a Novelist.” A co-production with Huace Media and Beijing Free Whale Pictures, it will be directed by Lu Yang, best known for the 2014 martial arts movie “Brotherhood of Blades” and its 2017 sequel.

    Alibaba’s investment in Tingdong comes at the start of what will be a difficult year for the local Chinese film industry, which faces massive production slowdowns and uncertainties because of new tax regulations and cautious investors. But losses for the Chinese industry’s smaller players may create opportunity for Hollywood, and for China’s best-capitalized players.

    Last week, an Alibaba producer announced that Golden Globe-winning “Green Book” would get a China release sometime this year but did not reveal an exact date, Chinese state media reported. Alibaba describes itself as an investor in the film, though its name was not on the credits when the film premiered in September at the Toronto festival.

    “It is such an amazing picture, which includes humorous dialogues, excellent acting performance, and touching friendship,” Alibaba Pictures president Zhang Wei said, according to the Chinese state broadcaster’s English-language channel CGTN. “We are so honored to participate in the course of co-production, as well as to introduce it to the Chinese audience.”
    More on Peppa Pig & Brotherhood of Blades.

    THREADS
    Jack Ma & Alibaba
    Chollywood Rising
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  4. #319
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    Cold winter

    Odd prediction to make just prior to the CNY movie rush...feels premature.

    JANUARY 21, 2019 2:13AM PT
    Chinese Entertainment Industry Braces for a ‘Cold Winter’ in 2019
    By REBECCA DAVIS


    CREDIT: COURTESY OF EMPEROR MOTION PICTURES

    Winter is here for the Chinese entertainment industry, a half-dozen top-tier industry professionals concurred in Beijing at the launch last week of Tencent Entertainment’s annual data-filled white paper.

    China’s box office hit new heights in 2018, raking in about $9 billion, but it was also a year of drastic regulatory changes and a government tax crackdown that have spooked investors and put projects across the country on hold.

    “Why call this period a ‘cold winter’? In 2018, 20 film and TV companies saw RMB160 billion of stock market value evaporate, while eight saw their valuation fall by more than 50%. The departure of capital has also made the entire film industry encounter unprecedented difficulties,” said Bona Film Group CEO Yu Dong, who was present to receive an award for “trending movie figure of the year.” Bona-backed “Operation Red Sea” was the top film at the Chinese box office last year, grossing more than $530 million (RMB3.65 billion).

    Zhang Liyi, chief editor of online news portal Tencent Entertainment, joked about how people had felt the impact of the slowdown personally. “Before, everyone would always ask each other at get-togethers, ‘Have you eaten? Where are you going on holiday?’ Then in 2018, the most common greetings became ‘Is your project still alive?’ ‘Did your business partner run away?’ ‘Did you finish paying your taxes?’”

    The film industry was shaken last summer when superstar Fan Bingbing temporarily disappeared from the public eye and was docked nearly $70 million in fines for tax evasion. The episode sparked a governmental push to tighten tax regulations, with many production companies now slammed with requests for back taxes.

    The year to come will be about finding ways to cope with a new normal, many at last Wednesday’s Tencent event said.

    “Everyone in the industry has already felt it: The stage of intensive production and expansive development is actually already over,” said Yang Ruichun, deputy editor-in-chief of Tencent’s online news portal qq.com. “After the shakeup of 2018, the entertainment industry will definitely enter a new middle period of development.”

    Yang said that people would need to “actively reflect and embrace change” to stay afloat in 2019: “We’re in the midst of a cold winter, and if all you do when facing it is complain, I think you may freeze to death.”

    Even social media darling Angelababy, known as much for having had a plastic surgeon examine the authenticity of her preternaturally pointed face as for her acting, seemed ruminative. “I think this winter will be a remedy to rid us of our impatience and giddiness. I hope that thanks to this winter, we can really reflect on what it is exactly that we want and truly wish to accomplish.” She was present to receive an award for “star of the year.”

    Tencent’s fifth annual white paper noted a number of entertainment trends in China. This year, word-of-mouth became a key determinant of box office performance. In part, that may be because more users have developed the habit of leaving online reviews. The number of people willing to write a review after seeing a movie was up 86% in 2018 from the year before, with nearly three-quarters of viewers doing so more than a day later, Tencent data showed.

    “Dying to Survive” star Xu Zheng, “Detective Chinatown 2’s” Wang Baoqiang, and actor turned writer-director Huang Bo were last year’s most bankable male stars, according to a popularity index developed by Tencent. Among actresses, comediennes Bai Baihe (“Monster Hunt 2”), Zhou Dongyu and veteran Zhang Ziyi led the pack.

    Even though authorities approved fewer TV shows for production in 2018 than in past years, a greater percentage of them ended up actually on air — a likely sign of both more intensive content restrictions and of the industry’s increasing maturity. In 2017, only about 29% of shows approved by authorities ultimately ended up being broadcast either online or on television. In 2018, that figure grew to 36%.

    Despite the industry-wide chill, the report’s data showed that variety shows developed by online streaming platforms were a notable sector of growth, particularly “X Factor”-style reality shows minting new pop culture idols. A number of stars from the top three programs — Tencent’s “The Coming One” and “Produce 101,” and iQiyi’s “Idol Producer” — are now household names.

    While the number of variety shows on traditional satellite TV channels has fallen 15.5% in the past two years to 93, the number of online streaming ones have boomed, with nearly 40% more shows in 2018 than in 2016. Online programs with more than 1 billion viewers rose from two in 2016 to 21 last year, where for the first time, two programs also broke the 5-billion-viewer threshold.

    Debashish Ghosh, managing director, international, at PMC, Variety‘s parent company, attended the event as a presenter.
    Gene Ching
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  5. #320
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    $103 m

    JANUARY 23, 2019 10:02PM PT
    Alibaba Lends $100 Million to Huayi Bros. in Film Investment Expansion

    By PATRICK FRATER
    Asia Bureau Chief


    CREDIT: TIFF

    Alibaba Pictures Group, the film business arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has struck a strategic cooperation deal with leading film studio Huayi Bros. The deal includes a $103 million (RMB700 million) loan to Huayi.

    Alibaba Pictures said the agreement was part of its recently announced strategy to be involved in major movies aimed for release during China’s four yearly holiday periods: Chinese New Year (around January-February), the summer, National Day celebrations in October, and end of the year. The strategy, dubbed the Jin Cheng Co-Production Project, runs for five years. (“Jin Cheng” translates roughly into English as “Golden Orange.”)

    The deal further expands the power and influence of deep-pocketed Internet platforms, such as Alibaba and Tencent, over the Chinese film industry. Alibaba and companies owned by founder Jack Ma have been significant minority shareholders in Huayi since 2014, and increased their positions again in 2015.

    The new deal with Huayi runs for five years and commits the studio to delivering 10 films in which Asian Union, a subsidiary of Alibaba Pictures, can be a co-investor and co-distributor. The two companies also agreed to work together on talent development, film marketing and merchandising through Alibaba’s Tao Piaopiao and Beacon platforms.

    The five-year loan, provided at China’s five-year base rate, will be used by Huayi as working capital and for company operations. As security for the loan, Huayi is providing share pledges, rights to returns from a film fund, and “unlimited joint and several guarantees provided by two major shareholders.” That appears to be a reference to Huayi founders and principals Dennis and James Wang.

    Last week, Alibaba cited its Jin Cheng film investment plan as the reason behind its move to take a 13% stake in the Tingdong Film company controlled by celebrity race car driver-turned-blogger and filmmaker Han Han (“The Continent,” “Duckweed”). His new movie, “Pegasus,” is one of the most anticipated of the upcoming Chinese New Year season. Alibaba also recently invested in “Green Book” and “A Dog’s Journey,” the sequel to hit “A Dog’s Purpose.”

    Huayi, in business as a private sector leader for over 20 years, has been behind hit films including the “Detective Dee” fantasy-action franchise and a string of movies by Feng Xiaogang (“Youth,” “I Am Not Madame Bovary”). It was also the Chinese partner of Hollywood independent STX Entertainment until the deal ran out at the end of December.

    On Thursday morning, Huayi Bros shares climbed 6.6% to RMB4.85 on the news of the deal with Alibaba Pictures, whose own shares were little changed at HK$1.29 apiece.
    THREADS
    Chollywood rising
    Jack Ma & Alibaba
    Gene Ching
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  6. #321
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    $784m - prc ftw

    Anyone see Once Upon a Deadpool? I'm very curious about that.

    FEBRUARY 03, 2019 1:18pm PT by Pamela McClintock
    Box Office Surprise: 'Deadpool 2' Overtakes First Pic With $784M Globally


    Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox
    'Deadpool 2'

    The unexpected feat comes after the PG-13 cut of the film was allowed to play in China.
    In another happy ending for the Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool 2 — including its family-friendly version — has crossed $784 million at the worldwide box office to become the highest-grossing title in 20th Century Fox's stable of X-Men movies.

    The previous champ in the X-Men universe was the first Deadpool (2016), which collected $783 million in global ticket sales to become the top-grossing R-rated pic of all time, not adjusted for inflation.

    Deadpool 2, produced by and starring Ryan Reynolds in the titular role, first hit theaters in May 2018.

    In early December, Reynolds and 20th Century Fox unleashed a family-friendly version of the sequel, Once Upon a Deadpool, which is rated PG-13 instead of R. The move, although it was unorthodox, paid off.

    Grosses for Once Upon a Deadpool have been added to Deadpool 2's running total, in keeping with the traditional practice for rereleases. Before the rerelease, Deadpool 2's global earnings stood at roughly $738 million.

    The rerelease has generated north of $45 million in ticket sales. The vast majority of that has come from China, where Deadpool 2 took in north of $40 million in its first 10 days. The first Deadpool was never allowed to play in China; the sequel was allowed in because of the family-friendly version.

    Last month, Reynolds traveled to China to promote the film's Jan. 25 debut.
    THREAD
    Deadpool 2
    Chollywood rising
    Gene Ching
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  7. #322
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    And the oscar goes to...

    ...China!

    FEBRUARY 25, 2019 9:08PM PT
    U.S. Drama ‘Green Book’ Touted as Oscar Win for China
    By PATRICK FRATER and BECKY DAVIS


    CREDIT: PATTI PERRET

    Chinese companies have been quick to claim their share of Oscar glory since Sunday’s ceremony, despite an awards season that largely shut out films from or about Asia, including “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Shoplifters.”

    Alibaba Pictures, the heavily loss-making film financing and production arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is busily talking up its involvement in best picture winner “Green Book.” The production company boarded the movie as an investor alongside Participant Media, Dreamworks Pictures and Amblin Partners (of which Alibaba is a minority owner) last summer. The film was nominated for five Oscars and won three Sunday, including best original screenplay and best actor in a supporting role. It will hit Chinese theaters on Friday.

    “Even though Alibaba Pictures is a relatively new entrant into Hollywood, we have a track record of choosing quality projects that not only have high entertainment value, but also have positive messages we believe in,” said Zhang Wei, president of Alibaba Pictures. The company also made investments in two other awards contenders, “Capernaum” and “On the Basis of Sex.”

    Another Chinese player, Perfect World Entertainment, which has interests stretching from games to movies, claimed its share of reflected glory with “BlacKkKlansman” (six nominations, including one win in the adapted screenplay category) and “First Man” (four nominations, including one win for best visual effects). Both were co-funded by Perfect World through its five-year finance deal with Universal Pictures.

    China’s propaganda apparatus has gone a step further, including several Oscar winners that have Chinese involvement of some kind as examples of Chinese excellence. On Monday, China’s state-owned news agency Xinhua pronounced Pixar-produced “Bao” a Chinese-centric Oscars triumph.

    “The short is written and directed by Chinese-born Canadian director Domee Shi,” who, Xinhua helpfully explained, “is the first woman and first Chinese writer and director of a Pixar short.” The news agency noted that “Bao” beat “One Small Step,” a “Chinese-American short film, directed by Zhang Shaofu…[which] tells the story of a young Chinese-American protagonist who dreams of being an astronaut.” In the documentary category, Xinhua claimed Chinese success through winner “Free Solo,” directed by Jimmy Chin and Elisabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, and through nominee “Minding the Gap,” directed by Chinese-American Liu Bing.

    While there is much celebration on Chinese social media that “Bao” – a touching, realistic story about Chinese food and family – won such a high-profile accolade, several nationalistic state media reports champion a narrative that the wins, despite originating in other countries, are wins for China itself. The reports play up an old but recently much more prominent idea that people with Chinese heritage all over the world are connected to China by their ethnic identity. “Each of them is connected to China in its own way,” said Xinhua.

    “It is a remarkable success given [U.S. President] Trump’s relentless China bashing,” said another commentator.

    Beyond the rhetoric, however, there is increasing industrial synchronization between Hollywood and China. “The 91st Academy Awards can be viewed as the starting point for a new period of growing influence for China in the international film industry,” said Xinhua. The assertion is only inaccurate in that the movement quietly started several years ago.

    The current dynamics are subtly different from those made in the 2012-2016 period, when Chinese companies were making aggressive and highly visible moves at the corporate level, like Alibaba and Wanda’s serious discussions about buying a piece of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Wanda bought Legendary Entertainment and unsuccessfully bid $1 billion for Dick Clark Productions. Video platform Le Vision/Le Eco made lavish slate announcements in Hollywood as recently as 2016, before gravity and Chinese regulators dragged them back to reality.

    However, what has replaced that five-year surge of Chinese mad money has been a quieter drive to invest, learn, and integrate China into Hollywood. The initiative has been conducted by a smaller number of companies – Alibaba Pictures, Tencent, and Perfect World – which each have long-term game plans and have quietly opened offices in L.A.

    Perfect World’s deal with Universal is largely a passive investment, but the company is simultaneously behaving like a Hollywood indie and developing its own material and scripts. (In China, Perfect World is further partnered with Hollywood names Village Roadshow and WME in Perfect Village Entertainment, a local production venture.)

    “Both luck and persistence are very important. Alibaba Pictures will do everything in its power to support every young director to go global and vie for the Oscars,” said chairman and CEO of Alibaba Pictures Fan Luyan.
    THREADS
    The Academy Awards
    Bao
    Alibaba
    Chollywood rising
    Gene Ching
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  8. #323
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    2035

    I suspect it would be sooner if they'd lose the patriotic attachment...or at least be a little more subtle about it.

    MARCH 3, 2019 4:38AM PT
    China Aims to Become ‘Strong Film Power’ Like U.S. by 2035, Calls for More Patriotic Films
    By REBECCA DAVIS


    CREDIT: T.NOR

    The Chinese government has exhorted filmmakers to turn the country into a “strong film power” like the U.S. by 2035 and called for the production of 100 movies a year that each earn more than RMB100 million ($15 million) as part of a push to increase China’s soft power.

    The targets were set by Wang Xiaohui, executive deputy director of the Central Propaganda Department and director of the National Film Bureau, at the first nationwide industry symposium since the former agency took jurisdiction over the latter. Government officials, film scholars, representatives of major film companies and industry associations gathered in Beijing on Wednesday for a symposium that set the tone for the future development of China’s industry with the propaganda bureau in the driver’s seat.

    The names of luminaries such as directors Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, Ning Hao, Guan Hu, and Huang Jianxin, as well as actors Zhang Ziyi, Wu Jing, and Chen Daoming, were on the list of attendees, according to the People’s Daily newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party.

    Wang was named head of China’s film bureau last May, following a major government restructuring. He said that a major concern is that “the international influence of Chinese film still has such a long way to go.” Last year, American films took in about $2.8 billion in the China market, but Chinese films in the U.S. market made only a few tens of millions. With its massive local box office, China had already become a “big film power,” but it needed to shift to becoming a “strong film power” like the U.S. by 2035, he said.

    “China has already taken its place at the center of the world stage, and Chinese films must have their proper place in the world,” Wang said, according to the People’s Daily. “But the Chinese film industry’s current level of development is not commensurate with China’s national status. A country’s level of film development reflects its total national strength.”

    He said that the biggest problem facing the Chinese film industry was one of quality. “Overall, our ability to tell stories lags far behind Hollywood and Bollywood’s,” Wang said.

    The 100 films a year that gross more than $15 million each should be “about realistic topics” and must “equally generate social impact and financial profits,” he said. They should take “the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” as their theme and have “patriotic plots.”

    Filmmakers “must have a clear ideological bottom line and cannot challenge the political system.” Cultivating new film artists was “extremely urgent and important,” as a lack of talent has so far been a big setback, he added.

    In a summary of last year’s industry performance, Wang called for the country to consolidate production capacity on profitable projects. In 2018, homegrown Chinese films accounted for a record 62.15% of the total local box office. But the money brought in was disproportionately earned by the top 10 grossing films, with just 2% of Chinese theatrical releases bringing in 53% of the box office. Meanwhile, 300 out of the 400 movies shown last year brought in less than 1 million RMB, while hundreds more never even made it to cinemas, indicating wasted resources.

    Thanks to scandals involving high-profile actors that resulted in film-release cancellations, Wang also announced that China would establish a “national film industry ethics committee.” Most recently, the Chinese New Year romcom “A Boyfriend for My Girlfriend” was pulled because of a scandal involving the lead actor and his mistress, while earlier in the year, a tax-evasion case involving actress Fan Bingbing caused her forthcoming works to disappear. China set up a similar ethics committee for the gaming industry last year.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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    $1.66 b


    China’s box office takes world-record US$1.66 billion in February as Lunar New Year hits like The Wandering Earth pack cinemas

    Chinese theatres generated 11.1 billion yuan in ticket sales, with space-exploration film The Wandering Earth proving the biggest draw
    Pearl Liu
    Updated: Tuesday, 5 Mar, 2019 6:03am


    A scene from Chinese sci-fi movie The Wandering Earth. Photo: China Film Group Corporation

    China’s box office receipts soared to a world-record 11.1 billion yuan (US$1.66 billion) in February as film fans flocked to cinemas to catch The Wandering Earth and other blockbusters during the Lunar New Year holiday.
    The sales figure, provided by Maoyan Entertainment, China’s biggest movie ticketing app, is the highest ever recorded in a single month anywhere, and beats the previous record of 10.1 billion yuan set by China in the same month a year earlier.
    It was well over three times the total revenue of North American theatres in February, which was US$478.5 million (3.2 billion yuan) according to Box Office Mojo.
    The ticket revenue was generated by 12 films during the month, with by far the biggest boost coming from the holiday period from February 4 to 10. Traditionally a time for friends and family to come together, the Lunar New Year has become something of a golden period for film releases in China.
    The total box office during the festivities, contributed by eight movies, reached 5.8 billion yuan, inching up slightly from 5.74 billion yuan in 2018, according to data from Maoyan.
    By far the biggest draw was the Chinese space-exploration film, The Wandering Earth, a surprise box-office hit, which has raked in 4.45 billion yuan since its Lunar New Year debut.
    “The success of the film signals that Chinese audiences have become more discerning, which has elevated the Chinese movie market to a more diversified and mature stage,” said Wu Chaoze, an analyst with China Securities who expects to see healthy growth of the market.
    The movie, adapted from a novella by Hugo award-winning sci-fi author Liu Cixin and produced by China Film Group Corporation, became China’s second highest-grossing film after the 2017 action movie Wolf Warrior 2, which earned 5.68 billion yuan.
    IMAX to show more Chinese-language films after sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth sets box office record
    Starring popular comedian Huang Bo and Glee actor Matthew Morrison, Crazy Alien ranked the second most popular film in February, taking 2.18 billion yuan. That was followed by Pegasus, directed and written by the famous
    China is already the second largest movie market in the world after the US, with box office proceeds reaching 60.98 billion yuan in 2018, up 9 per cent from the previous year.
    China’s box office takings in January came to 3.37 billion yuan. By comparison, North American cinemas took US$385.6 million in January (2.6 billion yuan), according to Box Office Mojo.
    THREADS
    Wandering Earth
    Spring Festival
    Chollywood rising
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    Bona Film Group Line Up

    JUNE 12, 2019 1:58PM PT
    China’s Bona Film Group Lines Up Big Movies Through 2020
    By PATRICK FRATER
    Asia Bureau Chief


    CREDIT: WELL GO USA

    Distributors and producers frequently bemoan the difficulty of understanding fast-moving audience trends in China. Affecting the outcome is the scale of country (some films skew toward northern or southern audiences, other titles play better in provincial towns than in the mega-cities and suburbs) and all are affected by word of mouth driven by ubiquitous social media.

    For the tech giants encroaching on the film sector, such as Tencent, the response to such uncertainty is to draw on big data for insight and help in making production, distribution and marketing decisions. For more traditional distributors, such as Bona Film Group, the problem is how to strike a balance between having a slate wide enough that it stretches across different genres, and one that has enough tentpoles for the Chinese calendar’s four or five main holiday periods.

    Box office in January this year dragged along at levels below 2018’s take. But the Chinese New Year holiday in February was highly competitive and produced the biggest B.O. numbers on record. Bona scored strongly with “Pegasus,” which scored over $255 million.

    Predicting what happens in the rest of 2019 gets harder still. That’s because Chinese film production volumes were dealt a sharp blow in the second half of last year by a new industry regulatory regime and the crackdown on individual tax liabilities and the scramble to re-write contracts between talent and production companies.

    This year, too, politics and sensitive anniversaries have a large impact on the releasing calendar. This year marks the centenary of the May 4, 1919, anti-imperialist student protests, as well as 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

    To celebrate these (and to drown out a trio of anniversaries that are less comfortable for the Communist government), film companies have been urged to deliver a string of movies with patriotic and nationalist themes.

    Bona’s slate is studded with these, most notably propaganda movie “AKA: Chairman Mao 1949,” directed by war film specialist Ning Haiqiang, to be released mid-September shortly ahead of the week-long National Day holidays.

    Some efforts to bring government-backed propaganda titles into the modern age have seen budgets, production values and star-quotients all increased. But the trick has worn thin and 2017’s “The Founding of an Army,” which was backed by Bona and directed by Hong Kong star helmer/actor Andrew Lau, was a $61 million box office disappointment. It was crushed by the massive hit “Wolf Warriors II,” released the same day.

    Bona learned the lesson that patriotic movies that are well-made and hail from the private sector can be genuinely popular. It’s “Operation Mekong” in 2016 and last year’s “Operation Red Sea” — both directed by Dante Lam — earned $172 million and $575 million, respectively. Bona has a multi-film deal with Lam, whose next action-heavy title, “The Rescue,” set within the China Coast Guards, has already staked out a prime February 2020 release slot.

    Other films with nationalist stirrings on Bona’s slate include fact-based pair “The Bravest,” about firefighters tackling a blaze that might have scorched North Korea, and Lau’s “The Chinese Pilot,” based on a real 2018 aviation incident that was high on drama and heroism, and low on casualties.

    Bona’s slate is peppered with Hollywood titles that are slotted into release dates in between the Chinese holidays and blackout periods. These are either sourced from the company’s multi-title co-financing and distribution arrangement with Sony Pictures Entertainment (“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”), from China-U.S. co-ventures (Fosun’s Ang Lee-directed “Gemini Man”) or are the largest films on the indie market, often secured with significant investment from Bona (AGC’s Roland Emmerich-directed “Midway” and New Regency’s James Gray-directed “Ad Astra”).

    The line-up is rounded off with more traditional vehicles for local stars. Lau produces and stars in “Find Your Voice,” a classical music drama. “Ip Man 4: The Finale” rounds off the Wilson Yip-directed franchise, and pits Donnie Yen against British action star Scott Adkins, just in time for the Christmas peak season.

    Below is Bona’s release schedule through the February holiday season.

    June

    “Chasing the Dragon II” (pictured)

    Director: Wong Jing

    Stars: Tong Leung Ka-fai, Louis Koo

    “A City Called Macau”

    Director: Li Shaohong

    Star: Bai Baihe

    July

    “The Invincible Dragon”

    Director: Fruit Chan

    Stars: Zhang Jin, Juju Chan

    “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

    Director: Quentin Tarantino

    Stars: Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio

    August

    “The Bravest”

    Director: Tony Chan

    Star: Huang Xiaoming

    “The Longest Shot”

    Director: Xu Shunli

    Stars: Yu Nan, Wang Zhiwen

    September

    “AKA: Chairman Mao 1949”

    Director: Ning Haiqiang

    “The Chinese Pilot”

    Director: Andrew Lau

    Star: Tang Guoqiang


    October

    “Gemini Man”

    Director: Ang Lee

    Star: Will Smith

    “Midway”

    Director: Roland Emmerich

    Stars: Luke Evans, Woody Harrelson

    December

    “Find Your Voice”

    Director: Adrian Kwan

    Star: Andrew Lau

    “Ip Man 4: The Finale”

    Director: Wilson Yip

    Stars: Donnie Yen, Scott Adkins

    January-February 2020

    “The Fat Dragon”

    Director: Wong Jing

    Stars: Donnie Yen, Jessica Jann

    “The Rescue”

    Director: Dante Lam

    Star: Eddie Peng

    Undated

    “Ad Astra”

    Director: James Gray

    Stars: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones
    I'm just going to add the links to threads that we already have here below:
    Chasing The Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch
    Invincible Dragon
    Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
    Gemini Man
    Ip Man 4
    Fat Dragon
    Gene Ching
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    Hollywood is stuck with remakes without censorship issues

    JUNE 16, 2019 3:36PM PT
    Chinese Script Development Requires A Different Touch, Top Producers Say
    By REBECCA DAVIS


    CREDIT: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES

    Leading film producers highlighted the challenges of developing good scripts in China and abroad at a panel during the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday.

    Wanda Media GM Jiang Wei (aka Wayne Jiang) recommended that producers remain aware of the real differences between the scriptwriting process for Chinese productions versus international and co-productions.

    The fundamental distinction is that in China, “the screenwriting system is a service centered on the director, who is the creative center,” rather than the producer, he assessed. In his experience, he’d seen that this could be frustrating for Chinese writers, who, eager to finally put their own spin on things, would often fail to execute what he’d asked of them, and turn in scripts that veered too far away from the company or the director’s original vision, making it necessary to switch from writer to writer until someone stuck.

    But when working on Hollywood films like “The Meg,” he saw that writers were used to doing multiple iterations of the same story without touching its overall direction or main storyline, and were used to discussing what elements they’d like to add before going ahead with them.

    “I think this experience of mine is something to note for great producers… coming to China,” he said. “The type of screenwriter system you’re jumping into is an important factor in your choice of what kind of project to undertake.

    Siddharth Roy Kapur, Indian producer of smash hit “Dangal,” provided advice on how producers should balance different players’ creative visions. “It’s important to bring the director on board as early in the process as possible,” he said. “If you bring the director on at the end of the process, the director wants to come in, but the writers want to make it their own.”

    He added: “It is important as the producer to pick your battles – very often, there are producers that have writing aspirations, and they want to jump on writing the script. That leads to a larger conflict later.”

    “You need to realize you’re not the writer. If you have a vision you’ve got to let the writers see it so that they can then go out and create magic. It can’t be a writing by committee — that never works.”

    Huayi Brothers Pictures CEO Jerry Ye also highlighted the differences between China and the West when it comes to screenwriting.

    “The thing with China right now is that there’s a huge lack of creative power… so we spend a huge amount of time finding a good script. I now require all my producers to spend 60% of their energy on the script,” he said. “This is something that’s hard to understand for foreign filmmakers because in many countries, there are loads of great scripts and stories sitting around, but no capital or market to support them. It’s the opposite in China.”

    Most younger Chinese creatives still don’t understand the logic needed to create a successful script, Ye said, urging them to study foreign films and screenwriting techniques. Huayi therefore often had to resort to hiring foreign writers to “build the bones of a screenplay” before bringing in Chinese screenwriters to then “fill it out with flesh and blood,” Ye said. He laughed: “We could also just do more remakes — as long as they can pass censorship.”
    THREADS
    Shanghai International Film Festival
    Chollywood rising
    Gene Ching
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    chollywood dropping

    The Hollywood box office is down too. Maybe filmmakers need to lower their projected expectations.

    JULY 3, 2019 8:07PM PT
    China Box Office Drops in First Six Months, Revealing Mounting Problems

    By REBECCA DAVIS


    CREDIT: COURTESY OF CHINA FILM GROUP

    China’s total box office fell 2.8% to $4.53 billion (RMB31.1 billion) in the first half of 2019. That was the the first such decline since 2011, Chinese media said.

    Reports noted the dip with alarm and dismay. “Although the decline is not large, the situation does not look promising,” wrote Chinese industry website Mtime, while online news source The Paper wrote: “This year audiences could clearly feel that after Chinese New Year, there were no good films to watch, especially among domestic (Chinese) films.”

    The slight fall in ticket sales also masks what The Paper called an even graver “hidden crisis”: a steep decrease in actual cinema-going. China’s total number of screenings has gone up, rising 7.98 million to 61.5 million in the first half of year, but at the same time, there has been a more than 10% drop in actual trips to the theater. Only 806 million tickets were sold in the past six months, down from 901 million in the first half of 2018.

    This significant change has been offset by a rise in average ticket prices. Alibaba’s Lighthouse data app shows that average prices in the first half of the year rose some RMB3.04 ($0.44) apiece to RMB38.6 ($5.61)— a figure that might appear as even higher for consumers who are hit with rising online booking fees and falling e-commerce subsidies.

    Despite this slowdown, movie theater construction has continued unabated. China has built 3,492 new screens so far in 2019, bringing the national total up to 64,944. Nevertheless, the rate of new screens appearing this year decreased by 15% compared with the same period last year. More than 9,000 were added in 2018.

    Per film averages also dropped, as there were 246 films released in the first six months, 18 more than the same period a year before. But just six of those — three imported titles (“Avengers: Endgame,” “Bumblebee” and “Captain Marvel”) and three Chinese titles (“The Wandering Earth,” “Crazy Alien” and “Pegasus”) — had earning that broke the RMB1 billion ($145 million) threshold. Just 42 (16 local and 26 imported) broke the RMB100 million ($14.5 million) mark.

    Overall, local Chinese films saw their relative performance weaken compared to imported ones in the first six months. Chinese films accounted for 47.5% of the total box office, with earnings of RMB14.8 billion ($2.15 billion). This marked a decline of RMB1.7 billion ($247 million) from the year before.

    Chinese reports noted with concern that only one Chinese film has topped the monthly box office so far this year — February’s sci-fi hit “The Wandering Earth.”

    The Chinese market overcame a dismal January with more robust sales in February’s hot Chinese New Year period, during which “The Wandering Earth” led in ticket sales to gross a whopping $691 million and become the country’s second most successful film of all time. In March, Taiwanese romantic melodrama “More Than Blue” led with $140 million. “Avengers: Endgame” broke records in April and May with its $614 million haul, single handedly accounting for 55% of China’s total box office in April. “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and the opening weekend of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” propped up the box office in June.

    It wa snot only the Chinese titles that underperformed. Several of the anticipated Hollywood titles also failed to live up to expectations. They included “Shazam!,” “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” “Men in Black: International,” “Toy Story 4” and “Aladdin.”

    This bodes poorly for the rest of the summer, particularly after government interference pushed back releases for two of the season’s most hotly anticipated films, war epic “The Eight Hundred” and youth drama “Better Days.”

    Last summer, China had five films that made over RMB1 billion ($145 million), but it will be difficult to match that tally in 2019. Only 58 are scheduled for release this July and August, a sharp decrease from 77 films last year, according to Maoyan. Among local films, big budget contenders include sci-fi film “Shanghai Fortress” and Bona’s firefighting rescue flick “The Bravest,” but almost no others.

    Several weeks in July and August are in many years unofficial blackout months during which China protects its local industry by halting imports of foreign fare. But unusually, numerous U.S. titles are lined up this year. They include “The Secret Life of Pets 2” on July 5, “The Lion King” on July 12, “Fighting with My Family” on July 19, “UglyDolls” on August 9, and the Universal-distributed “Yesterday” on August 16.

    China has announced theatrical runs for “The Angry Birds Movie 2” and “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” but not yet set release dates. It remains to be seen whether Quentin Tarantino’s Bona-backed “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which debuts stateside July 26, will hit the Chinese big screen.
    Gene Ching
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    netflix

    Netflix Expands Chinese Content With Series, Film Additions
    By PATRICK FRATER
    Asia Bureau Chief


    CREDIT: COURTESY OF CHANGHE FILMS

    Global streaming giant Netflix is growing its Chinese-language content with six new licensed titles. These will arrive on the service in the second half of 2019.

    Netflix is not permitted by China to operate its video streaming platform there. But it nevertheless perceives an appetite for Chinese-language content that can be accessed by international audiences, viewers in Chinese-speaking parts of Asia, and overseas Chinese. Netflix’s first Chinese-language original series are expected to launch over the next few months, including “Nowhere Man,” “Triad Princess,” and “The Ghost Bride.”

    The six upcoming Chinese-language licensed series and films lean heavily on productions from Taiwan and Hong Kong. They include an expansion of “A Thousand Goodnights,” from Taiwan’s Sanlih TV; the previously announced pickup of Taiwanese art house thriller “Cities of Last Things”; and”Sexy Central,” a female-led drama from Hong Kong’s China 3D Digital.

    “Goodnights,” the story of a daughter carrying out her father’s wish, discovering her roots and embarking on a journey around Taiwan, is already available on the platform. Episodes 11-20 will launch on Aug. 10. “Cities” is an award-winning dystopian thriller, told in reverse chronological order, that launched at the Toronto festival last September. It will be available on Netflix from Thursday.

    “Pili Fantasy: War of Dragons,” Season 1, is a popular glove puppetry show from Taiwan that has run since 1988. The first season depicts a story where turmoil looms in the Martial World, and the Eight Wonders of the Evil Dragon unleashes dark forces. The show is licensed from Pili International Multimedia, and available on Netflix from Friday.

    The “Mayday Life” fact-based movie follows Taiwanese mega-band Mayday on its “Life Tour” concert series, recorded live in 55 cities and 122 shows. Shot over two years across four continents, the show attempts to link together four stories. The movie chronicles the beginnings of one of Asia’s biggest and most popular bands, allows viewers along for the ride, and reflects upon life and friendship. Licensed from B’in Music, “Mayday” will be available on Netflix in August.

    “Til Death Do Us Part,” licensed from MirrorFiction, is a suspenseful anthology series spanning seven stories that explore one’s fears and desires when everything we have is at stake. It will be available on Netflix from Aug. 15.

    Over the past year, Netflix has acquired Chinese-language content including films and TV series including “Dear Ex,” “Green Door,” “Us and Them,” mainland Chinese sci-fi hit film “The Wandering Earth,” “Meteor Garden” “The Defected,” “On Children,” and “The Rise of Phoenixes.”
    THREADS
    Chollywood rising
    Chinese and HK Television Series
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    PRC chains

    BUSINESS
    China Opens Door for Foreign Movie Theater Chains, But Will They Enter?

    2:58 PM PDT 7/9/2019 by Patrick Brzeski


    Mark Schiefelbein - Pool/Getty Images
    Chinese President Xi Jinping

    The country with the world's largest potential moviegoing audience appears to be inviting foreign investment right as growth in the sector finally begins to slow.

    After years of restrictions on virtually every front of its massive film sector, China has cracked the door open to foreign movie theater chains.

    On June 30, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued an update to its so-called "Negative List," the official government document that outlines which industries are out of bounds for foreign investment. The number of sectors and sub-sectors on the list was cut from 2018's total of 48 to 40 this year. The new 2019 list removed investment restrictions on industries ranging from oil exploration to farming, as well as one significant change for the entertainment business: A restriction stipulating that "the construction and operation of cinemas must be controlled by a Chinese party" was dropped.

    The timing of the changes — just days after President Donald Trump met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the G20 summit and pledged to back down from threatened tariff increases — struck many in the industry as an encouraging sign that Beijing's trade war retaliations wouldn't be engulfing Hollywood's vital China business anytime soon. (HBO Asia's Taiwanese original series The World Between Us received permission from Chinese regulators to stream on Tencent Video the same week, offering encouragement that Beijing may have lifted a recent freeze on U.S. video content approvals.)

    "In the context of the trade war, there is a tendency for small concessions to be made here and there, and this is probably one of them," says Mathew Alderson, a partner at Harris Bricken Attorneys & Consultants in Beijing. "It's hard to imagine that they would have taken this step had that meeting resulted in an escalation of tensions."

    Exactly what the new rules allow remains somewhat unclear, however. Although the "operation and construction" of cinemas by foreign firms appears to be permitted now, ambiguous wording retained elsewhere in the document leaves unresolved the question of whether movie theaters in China can be directly owned by international parties, or under what ownership structures. (Does the usual requirement of entering into a joint venture with a Chinese firm still hold, for example? And just how large can the foreign party's share of the business be in practice?)

    "Flexibility in interpretation and implementation is a familiar strategy from Beijing," adds Alderson. "We won't fully know what's possible until some international companies actually try to work through this system and we see how it is applied."

    How much opportunity for growth is left for foreign firms to capitalize on in China's massive exhibition sector is another question. "You certainly can't say that companies going into theater construction in China now will be getting in on the ground floor," points out Lindsay Connor, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, who regularly represents Chinese studios in international deals.

    Over the past two decades, China's theatrical exhibition footprint has exploded from hundreds of screens to a network totaling more than 64,000 — the largest and most state-of-the-art exhibition outlay of any country on the planet. Beijing-based Dalian Wanda Group, both China's and the world's largest exhibitor, already has a multiplex occupying prime real estate in virtually every major Chinese city.

    Meanwhile, most indicators suggest China's great theater-building boom is finally reaching a leveling-off point — and that the sector could even be ailing. "It's significant that this announcement has come now, because what we see is that the Chinese industry is in transition," says Rance Pow, president of Shanghai-based cinema consulting firm Artisan Gateway.

    In the first half of 2019, ticket sales revenue in China fell 2.7 percent compared to the same period last year, according to Artisan Gateway's data. Most observers have blamed the drop on a downturn in domestic film production caused by Beijing's tax crackdown and censorship uptick over the past year, along with other domestic financing challenges. But an increase in average ticket prices — from RMB 35.6 ($5.17) in 2018 to RMB 38.6 ($5.61) this year — has masked a more worrying trend: a 10.3 percent decline in total admissions in the first half of the year, and a 16.7 percent slip in the average box office revenue generated per movie screen.

    "We're starting to see what looks like the beginnings of a consolidation stage in the Chinese exhibition industry, which would be led by the failure of some smaller companies, and at some point bigger failures of business," Pow says.

    It's perhaps natural, then, that Beijing is suddenly more receptive to bringing in some international resources and operational best practices — especially since the domestic champions are already so well-entrenched.

    Despite the difficulties — both those perennial to doing business in China, and the cyclical downturn — it's unlikely that the major international theater chains will eschew Beijing's invitation altogether, as ambiguous as it may still be. China may already have 50 percent more movie screens than North America (approximately 64,900, compared with 40,300), but its population is more than four times that of the U.S. (1.39 billion compared to 327 million).

    Adds Connor: "The Chinese market has been substantially serviced by the rapid rise of local theater companies, but it's still far too big a market to ignore. I suspect every major theater company will be giving this a very hard look."
    I thought PRC companies already owned all the major U.S. theater chains.
    Gene Ching
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    Looking Up

    China Box Office: 'Lion King' Dethroned by Local Family Film, 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Hits $200M
    1:59 AM PDT 7/22/2019 by Patrick Brzeski

    The heartwarming Chinese drama 'Looking Up' proved to be the market's preferred family film this weekend.

    Chinese family film Looking Up, co-directed by and starring Deng Chao, delivered on its early buzz to swiftly unseat Disney's The Lion King from its perch atop China's box office.

    After several days of escalating nationwide previews, Looking Up officially opened Thursday to $9.2 million, then added a healthy $38.6 million from Friday through Sunday. Thanks to those expansive previews, the film had totaled $62 million by the end of Sunday, according to box office tracker Artisan Gateway.

    A heartwarming drama, Looking Up follows a Chinese astronaut who, after losing contact with Earth, drifts through space reminiscing about the generosity and educational upbringing he received from his single dad (played by Deng, a local fan favorite from The Mermaid, Duckweed and other hits). The film is produced by Deng's company Tianjin Chengzi Yingxiang Media, with Enlight Media, Maoyan, Tencent Pictures and Dadi Films also holding stakes.

    Jon Favreau's The Lion King, meanwhile, slipped 62 percent from its $55 million opening last week to pull in $20.8 million for its second frame. The CGI juggernaut has climbed to $97.1 million and should run out of gas somewhere around the $130 million mark in the coming weeks. That's a respectable, if somewhat middle-of-the road, finish for a Disney mega-tentpole in China, but still better than most of the studio's other recent remakes in the market: Aladdin ($53 million), Dumbo ($22 million), Beauty and the Beast ($85.7 million ) and The Jungle Book ($150 million).

    Holdover Hong Kong crime thriller The White Storm 2: Drug Lords, starring Andy Lau, added $13.9 million in its third weekend. The film has earned $171.7 million, the market's sixth best showing this year.

    Local animation Nezha, an adaptation of a classic work of Chinese literature, crept into fourth place. The film doesn't officially open until Friday, but it's already generating momentum and significant earnings thanks to a cross-country roadshow of previews — an increasingly common marketing strategy in China during the summer holiday and Chinese New Year blockbuster periods.

    Coming in fifth for the weekend, Sony Pictures' Spider-Man: Far From Home swung past the $200 million mark, earning $3.6 million in its fourth weekend. The film is Hollywood's second-biggest earner in China in 2019, behind only Avengers: Endgame ($614 million).
    Didn't see that one coming.

    Here's our Spider-Man: Far From Home coverage.

    Thought we had threads on The White Storm 2: Drug Lords & Nezha too, but couldn't find them.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

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