Cor­po­rate spat over movie goes pub­lic

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By RAY­MOND ZHOU ray­mondzhou@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A cor­po­rate feud be­tween two of China’s big­gest names in the film in­dus­try has bub­bled to the sur­face as di­rec­tor Feng Xiao­gang posted an open let­ter to Wang Jian­lin, chair­man of Wanda Group, on Fri­day.

In the let­ter, the top-sell­ing film­maker ac­cused Wanda, which owns the coun­try’s largest cin­ema chain, of al­lo­cat­ing only 10 per­cent of its screens for his new re­lease I Am Not Madame Bo­vary, while other chains gave it 40 per­cent.

The rea­son, he said, was ex­ec­u­tive Ye Ning’s job-hop­ping early this year from Wanda to Huayi, the film com­pany that has pro­duced most of Feng’s films. Wanda, with 13 per­cent of the coun­try’s screens, ear­lier tar­geted two other Huayi re­leases for sim­i­lar treat­ment, he said in a later in­ter­view.

“The third slap has fallen on my face, and I’m not afraid. Such prac­tices can dam­age the in­dus­try when a cor­po­rate feud ends up pe­nal­iz­ing the film­mak­ers.”

In re­sponse to Feng’s ac­cu­sa­tion, Wang Si­cong, son of Wang Jian­lin and a stock­holder in Wanda Cin­ema Line, men­tioned in his blog that there was a non­com­pete clause in Ye’s con­tract and, in ad­di­tion, Wanda has a right to al­lo­cate lim­ited screen slots as it chooses based on its ex­pec­ta­tions of mar­ket per­for­mance.

Feng, in turn, ac­cused Wang and Wanda of act­ing ir­re­spon­si­bly for their eq­uity hold­ers be­cause the film ex­hi­bi­tion arm of Wanda is a pub­lic com­pany.

“With 40 per­cent of screens na­tion­wide, our film achieved 62 per­cent of to­tal box-of­fice re­ceipts on its open­ing day. At Wanda, we got 13 per­cent of screens, but ac­counted for 30 per­cent of its re­ceipts,” Feng said on Satur­day.

What could have been merely a cor­po­rate spat spilled from the fi­nan­cial sec­tion over to the main­stream, mainly be­cause of the two larger-than-

Feng Xiao­gang, film di­rec­tor

life per­son­al­i­ties in­volved. Feng is known as a loose can­non who tar­gets any­thing he sees as un­fair. (He also said Huayi had apol­o­gized to Wanda for the Ye in­ci­dent, but the lat­ter wasn’t for­giv­ing.) Wang Si­cong is big news on­line, not only be­cause of his fa­ther, one of the wealth­i­est peo­ple in China, but be­cause of his brazen­ness. The sin­gle tweet he sent had “the power of a pub­lic re­la­tions army”, ac­cord­ing to a ne­ti­zen.

Most ne­ti­zens sided with Wang be­cause they agreed with him in think­ing Feng’s let­ter was “too acidic and pre­ten­tious”. For his let­ter, Feng took on the per­sona of Pan Jin­lian, the Madame Bo­vary equiv­a­lent in the ti­tle. The prob­lem is, the fe­male lead spent the whole movie ar­gu­ing she is not that type of woman. This made the tie-in with the movie plot a moot point, crit­ics said.

“You say I’m in a po­si­tion of strength and med­dling with a film ex­hibitor’s work. But I’m the vic­tim here, and Huayi is in­deed a small com­pany com­pared with Wanda,” Feng said.

I Am Not Madame Bo­vary reg­is­tered 146 mil­lion yuan ($21.2 mil­lion) in its first two days of re­lease, a sig­nif­i­cant sum for a drama film with a mostly cir­cu­lar for­mat. The movie, a gen­tle satire of the coun­try’s bureau­cracy, has been widely lauded as Feng’s best in a decade.

Such prac­tices can dam­age the in­dus­try when a cor­po­rate feud ends up pe­nal­iz­ing the film­mak­ers.”

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