Overseas films abound
A movie feast is in store in the coming weeks on Chinese screens
China’s movie scene, which has seen a slowdown in the past months, could soon see a revival thanks to a flood of foreign blockbusters.
Starting this week, up to seven imported films will hit theaters in China — the world’s second-largest film market — for the next month.
Every weekend from now through Nov 18 will have one or more foreign blockbusters.
The figure equals the number of foreign films screened between July and September, and this burst is being hailed by many Chinese diehard fans.
“After a long, boring summer and the lackluster Mid-Autumn and National Day holidays, we finally have some really big movies worth looking forward to,” says a netizen on Douban.com, the country’s largest review site.
On Friday, Tom Cruise’s action thriller Jack Reacher: Never Go Back will compete with Jason Stat ham’ s Mechanic: Resurrection as well as a film from Japan, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’, the 19th animated feature inspired by the Dragon Ball series.
The three films are sequels, which mean the movies have some resonance with Chinese fans, besides the celebrity quotient.
Cruise, who toured Beijing and Shanghai last week to promote the second installment of the Jack Reacher series, is one of the most popular Hollywood megastars in China thanks to his franchise Mission: Impossible.
British actor Stat ham, known in China for Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables, starred in last year’s Fast and Furious 7, which to date is the highestgrossing foreign film in China.
Next Friday will see Tom Hanks’ Inferno, hitting screens in China.
The American mystery thriller’s title has been translated as Danding Mima (Dante’s Code) in Chinese, to show its connection with The Da Vinci Code.
The Da Vinci Code beat King Kong and Mission: Impossible III to top the foreign films’ box-office chart in 2006.
Both The Da Vinci Code and Inferno are adapted from Dan Brown’s namesake novels.
Separately, Ang Lee’s longawaited Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, based on a 19-year-old American soldier’s memory of the Iraq War, will open simultaneously in China and the United States on Nov 11.
A highlight of the two-time Oscar-winner’s new film is cutting-edge photography: It was shot in 3-D with 4-K resolution (a horizontal resolution of around 4,000 pixels) at a speed of 120 frames per second, five times that of a regular movie.
The blend of these elements means Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk will be much more realistic and clearer than most other movies.
But there is also bad news— there are only two theaters, one each in Beijing and Shanghai, respectively, that have the facilities to showcase the film’s visual effects.
Meanwhile, the last revenue-shared imported film this year in China is likely to be Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The film, which will premiere on Nov 18 in China and the US, is a spinoff and a prequel of the Harry Potter film series, and is expected to do well, just like the other movies from the franchise based on the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling.
For most industry watchers, it’s not a surprise to see this glut of imported films.
China’s theaters are typically dominated by domestic titles during the country’s peak viewing periods like the summer and holidays like the National Day and the Spring Festival breaks, leaving the other periods to imported films, says Jiang Yong, a veteran industry watcher.
“But this year was a bit different. In the past five years, few imported films were released in the summer, but this year two or three were released each month from July to September,” says Jiang.
He also adds that a longtime worry— domestic filmmakers fearing their powerful Hollywood rivals — has gone away as many homegrown movies now resonate more closely with locals thanks to their cultural connections.
Liu Hui, deputy general manager of Beijing UME International Cineplex, echoes the view, saying that while most imported films are welcomed in tier-one or tier-two cities, they are not as popular as their domestic rivals in smaller cities.
As for box-office returns for the year, most industry experts are not optimistic.
After seeing The Mermaid rake in 3.4 billion yuan ($507 million) to become China’s highest-grossing title earlier this year, many felt that this year’s receipts would surpass 60 billion yuan.
But now, the common view is that it will be time for celebration even if the figure hits 50 billion yuan.
Wang Changtian, president of Enlight Media studio, says China’s box-office revenues have returned to “a normal track”, which may stimulate local filmmakers to focus more on quality content.
FantasticBeastsandWheretoFindThem, a spinoff and a prequel of the Harry Potter film series, will premiere on Nov 18 in China and the United States.
Action thriller JackReacher: NeverGoBack starring Tom Cruise will hit Chinese theaters on Friday.