Official figures released by China‘s film watchdog the SAPPRFT show 2013′s box office tally through November 25th was 19.3B yuan ($3.17B). That’s a 17.4% leap over 2012′s full take of $2.7B. But with only a month to go in the country that now has over 17,600 screens, will China be able to maintain the kind of growth it’s seen in recent years? The jump in 2012 was 35% and the year prior about 30%. A last-minute surge this year is likely, says Rob Cain, a producer in both the U.S. and China who writes the ChinaFilmBiz blog. That’s because there is a host of local movies on deck which he estimates stand to bring in about $500M by the end of December. If the math is correct, that would put 2013 about 36% above 2012.
Related: UK-China Co-Production Treaty Inches Closer
There are no more big U.S. productions expected to release in 2013, but November has been relatively good to Hollywood in China. The town’s movies are faring better than in the first half of the year when market share was down 21.3% year-on-year and imports to China had only $717M in sales. This quarter, U.S. films have about 55% of the market. Recent titles to go out include Escape Plan, Thor: The Dark World, Gravity and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Gravity just added $20.7M in its second week on 5,854 screens for a 13-day cume of $56.7M. Released a day after Gravity, Catching Fire did not have the same impact. Its worldwide success is undeniable: in the first 11 days of international release, the film has nearly equaled the entire international run of the first Hunger Games. It has $24.2M through Sunday in China, nearing the $27.9M lifetime gross of the original in the territory. I understand that Lionsgate execs are happy with the performance and Cain says it “looks like it will do better than the first one.” However, he opines, “In a market that’s grown by 80% [since the original was released] that’s not saying that much.” Another exec familiar with China tells me that Catching Fire likely suffered from the head-to-head positioning against Gravity. The exec says, “Bureaucrats try to stack the deck… and that causes a cannibalization of those films.” Cain agrees it may have been a factor that the films were released so close together — China “had to get the last few quota films out before December” — but also says the Hunger Games books and films haven’t been part of the zeitgeist in Asia. In his blog, he noted that Gravity benefited from a “liberal use of James Cameron’s quote calling it ‘The best space film ever’.” China is known as an especially brand-conscious country and Cameron’s Avatar is still the highest-grossing film there ever. Read More »
Controversy becomes Jimmy Kimmel, though it may give parent company Disney heart palpitations. Turns out, the week of November 18, Jimmy Kimmel Live had its best week in both viewers (2.86 million) and in the demo (1.05 million) since it moved to its earlier 11:35 PM time slot in January to play with the big boys. November 18, maybe not coincidentally, was the deadline for Kimmel’s non-fans to collect 100,000 signatures on a petition mandating White House comment on the ABC program’s Kids Table segment in which Kimmel asked a group of precocious moppets, among other questions, how they thought the United States should repay its $1.3 trillion debt to China. “Kill everyone in China,” giggled little Braxton. After which, all hell broke loose for Disney.
Related: Chinese Foreign Ministry Tells ABC To Respond To Protesters
Kimmel had been getting loads of free press since the October 16 broadcast, but it reached the boiling point as the petition neared its required 100,000 signatures. With that threshold easily hit, the White House is now obligated to comment on 6-year-old Braxton’s suggestion. (The White House raised the number of petition signatures required last January, after a petition calling for the deportation of CNN’s British primetime anchor Piers Morgan, and other petitions, very quickly hit the previous 25,000 signature threshold.) Kimmel has apologized for the segment, Disney has apologized for the segment, ABC has expunged the segment from all platforms and even plowed under the Kids Table segment.
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British Prime Minister David Cameron is in China this week on a mission to strengthen ties with the booming nation across many sectors, the film industry among them. He’s traveling with a large delegation that includes Culture Secretary Maria Miller, head of the British Film Institute Amanda Nevill and Pinewood Shepperton CEO Ivan Dunleavy. Although details were still being hammered out as of yesterday, it’s been hoped that a long-in-the-works co-production treaty between the UK and China would be unveiled on the ground. In the meantime, the pair today did announce a “cultural agreement” that includes in its text an accord “in principle” to support the conclusion of the treaty, and a bid to facilitate TV productions in both countries.
A treaty could still be signed this week, but it’s not a guarantee of more British films making their way into China since true co-production status, which eliminates the quota barrier on foreign movies, remains elusive across the board. A treaty wouldn’t relax the censors either as all movies are susceptible to cuts. Last year’s Skyfall, which was shot at Pinewood and also partly in China, saw some scenes excised from the version that went to local theaters.
However, in a longterm move, Cameron is also pushing for a free trade agreement between China and the EU – curiously at a time when Britain continues to debate whether it wants to remain part of the Union at all. I’ve heard conflicting thoughts on whether free trade would permit UK films to bypass the quota system, and the proposal overall is likely to rankle other EU countries. In a letter he penned in the current edition of Chinese business weekly Caixin, Cameron remarked on the increasingly prosperous Chinese population and cited James Bond and Downton Abbey, among Britain’s “world-class goods and services they need.” He wrote that he would back “an ambitious and comprehensive EU-China Free Trade Agreement… that could be worth tens of billions of dollars every year.” Read More »
European Commission Unveils “Film Support Rules” For EU
European Union member states provide films with an estimated €3B ($4.03B) per year in grants, soft loans and tax incentives. About 80% of that goes toward film production — one reason pricey indies are turning to the UK and the Continent. Today, in a long-awaited move by the European Commission, the body has published its new “film support rules” for the EU. The revised criteria for assessing member states’ support systems for film and other audiovisual works is being referred to as the “Cinema Communication.” It allows aid for a wider scope of activities, highlights individual countries’ discretion in defining support targets, introduces the possibility for more aid for European co-productions, and promotes film heritage. Among the highlights (the full text is here) is that co-productions funded by more than one member state now will be eligible to receive aid of up to 60% of the production budget. There are no limits on aid for script writing or development. In-country spend requirements will remain at the discretion of the individual states. The new Communication was met today with praise from both the UK and France. The BFI welcomed the news that the Cinema Communication “safeguards the UK’s film tax relief and Lottery funding for film. … The continuation of the successful UK film tax relief framework is a huge reassurance to the UK film industry and will support the growth of the sector.” French filmmakers also hailed the EC’s decision to “preserve the complex but efficient fabric of European cinematic support.” Commission VP Joaquín Almunia said, “The objective of these revised rules is to encourage vibrant audiovisual creation in Europe while preserving cultural diversity everywhere in the EU.”
U.S. Writers Will Head East With AFI/IDG China Story Fellowship
The American Film Institute announced today its AFI/IDG China Story Fellowship, a scholarship program at the AFI Conservatory aimed at developing screenplays that foster greater understanding of Chinese history, culture and literature. The fellowship provides nine AFI Fellows with travel to China for cultural research. They will write a feature-length screenplay and receive a full scholarship for their second year at the AFI Conservatory. “Too many Americans only know Chinese culture through animated films like Kung Fu Panda and Mulan,” said Hugo Shong, Chairman of IDG Greater China. “Americans deserve to see other types of movies about China, ones that hopefully can entertain them, educate them and at the same time touch their hearts.” Read More »
With Hollywood increasingly headed to China, here’s a twist: A Chinese TV series is about to set up shop in the Pacific Northwest. DMG Entertainment, the company that partnered with Marvel on Iron Man 3 in China, will … Read More »
Youku Tudou, Sohu Video, Tencent Video, LeTV, the MPAA, Wanda Films, Enlight Media and Huayi Brothers are among the partners in the Joint Action Against Online Video Piracy in China. The aim of the … Read More »
Now the Chinese Foreign Ministry has weighed in on the Jimmy Kimmel Live’s Kids Table controversy, telling ABC it needs to “face its mistakes head on and respond with a sincere attitude to the … Read More »
The Twilight Saga – Eclipse, The Tree Of Life, Princess Bride, and Dirty Dancing are among the movies that will become available for transactional and subscription VOD on China‘s official streaming site, the companies say. They didn’t disclose terms, … Read More »
UPDATE 6:30 AM PT: IMAX has released full details of its joint venture with TCL, including that their new premium home theater system is expected to launch in China and other select markets in 2015. A full press release follows the earlier story below.
PREVIOUS: IMAX is due to announce later today that it has set up a joint venture with China’s TCL Multimedia Technology Holdings Limited to develop and manufacture $250,000 home theater systems in the booming country. IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond tells The New York Times the decision to partner with TCL was primarily because IMAX expects China to be its largest market. Low production costs were also a factor, but not the driver, he said. China is especially ripe for premium home-entertainment given it does not have a window restriction on the release of films in formats suitable for the systems. Also, despite the quota on foreign movies that are distributed theatrically, the latest Hollywood movies are widely available on DVD and in other formats, which, the NYT says, prompts families “to spend heavily to see them at home in style.” Gelfond said the new systems would not hurt box office. “The cost of this is not at a price point that threatens the theatrical community,” he said. TCL and IMAX have a pre-existing relationship: TCL bought naming rights to Hollywood’s Chinese Theater earlier this year and IMAX has its largest auditorium there. On Monday, IMAX said it had acquired a stake in PRIMA Cinema Inc to expand its home entertainment offering. As part of the deal IMAX will have a five-year window of exclusivity to distribute and resell PRIMA systems in China. Read More »
So much for the speculation that Lionsgate might wait until 2014 to take the film to China. Hunger Games: Catching Fire will open day-and-date with the global release unlike the first film, which was delayed for three months. The initial Hunger Games generated $27M in China, and the new one — which will also appear in IMAX — likely “will do materially better,” Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil says. It’ll be a big week for film goers in China: The new Hunger Games opens a day after the premiere there of Warner Bros’ Gravity.
Here’s Lionsgate’s announcement:
SANTA MONICA, CA, October 22, 2013 – Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF), a leading global entertainment company, announced today that the second installment of its global blockbuster The Hunger Games franchise, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, has been approved for a November 21, 2013 release on more than 3,000 screens in China.
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In a bid to push “morality-building programs” Chinese regulator SAPPRFT has issued a decree to cut back on imports and non-factual programming. Beginning in 2014, satellite broadcasters will be allowed to acquire rights to only one foreign format — and the one they do pick up will be restricted to airing outside of primetime. What’s more, state media report, only one musical talent show will be approved every quarter. There will also be a 7.5-hour daily blackout period on broadcasting serials and entertainment programs; the time instead will be filled with news and education programming.
China is forecast to be the biggest pay-TV market by the end of 2018 with 313 million households, and this directive officially came down just days after the Mipcom TV market wrapped in Cannes. Chinese buyers have become a fixture at foreign markets and this move could put a damper on some of the business they do with overseas companies. Competition shows like China’s Got Talent and Chinese Idol have been successfully adapted in recent years. News of the restrictions comes after a Chinese delegation spent the weekend in Hollywood, talking up the future for collaboration between U.S. and China film and TV production companies.
Related: Chinese Charm Offensive Checks Into Hollywood’s Hotel
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David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
A Chinese charm offensive led by Beijing bureaucrats rolled into the heart of Hollywood this weekend, with prize money and production support for screenwriters, proffers of future TV and movie project backing and a film “panorama” a couple of weeks hence.
The weekend’s key event was a Saturday night panel at the Beverly Hills Hilton, that slightly faded bastion of Hollywood glitz that is home to the Golden Globes and much else, and hosted by Beijing’s Municipal Office of Cultural Assets and Harvardwood, Harvard University’s alumni group focused on the entertainment industry. Panelists included former Motion Picture Academy President Sid Ganis (he’s now honorary chairman of a Chinese production company), East West Bank exec Bennett Pozil (the bank has financed Chinese co-productions such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero for more than a decade), Tony-winning theatrical producer Darren Bagert and film producers Michael Andreen and Christopher Lee.
All five have done business on both sides of the Pacific, and all repeatedly pushed the point that China is now not only the fast-growing No. 2 film market in the world, it is the world’s biggest TV production market and quickly becoming a strong venue for live theater as well. The question is whether any of that can translate beyond China’s borders to broader international markets. The city of Beijing is courting some American help to reach wider audiences. Read More »
Alfonso Cuaron‘s space odyssey Gravity has been given a November 20th release date in China, a Warner Bros rep tells Deadline. The film will now have access to the world’s second-largest market and one … Read More »
In what could be good news for the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, China is moving to repeal a 13-year ban on the sale of video game consoles within the country. The news came in … Read More »
There’s a saying I often hear when it comes to big business in China: The bigger the announcement, the less real the deal. So it’s no wonder that when Dalian Wanda Group‘s Wang Jianlin said he was going to buy AMC in 2012, folks were skeptical. And then, $2.6B later, he became the world’s largest movie theater owner last September. Now, the Wanda boss has unveiled even more ambitious plans to bring Hollywood closer to China when, surrounded by a Hollywood’s who’s who, he broke ground on the $8.2B Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis complex this weekend. Wanda separately unveiled plans to build a $4.9B Cultural Tourism City in Wuxi with theme park and movie elements. Now, it’s important to balance the hoopla with the understanding that Wang Jianlin’s core business is real estate. In China, access to prime property is overseen by a government which wants to see development. That’s why some see this as a land grab wrapped in a Hollywood story.
Hollywood turned out in force for the unveiling of the Movie Metropolis complex, with moguls like Harvey Weinsten and Patrick Wachsberger, and stars from Nicole Kidman to Leonardo DiCaprio and John Travolta rubbing elbows with China’s richest man (rumors that talent was paid 7-figure appearance fees were refuted). Even AMPAS president Cheryl Boone-Isaacs was there, on the heels of a $20M donation from Wanda. The Movie Metropolis complex will create 10,000 square meters of studios, a film museum, movie theaters, resort hotels and other “cultural tourism projects.” It will open in June 2016 and be fully operational in 2017. Wanda also announced plans to bring in over 50 domestic production companies to make 100 films and TV shows per year, with another 30 foreign movies expected to be made in China, which was a reason that some talent agency honchos made the long trip; as well as to support talent and see the level of Wanda’s commitment. Among those present was UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer. Read More »
In what it’s touting as the first fund dedicated exclusively to film and television in China, Bona Film Group has launched a 1B Renminbi fund ($163.4M) to develop and produce projects over the next two years. The fund … Read More »
The Guillermo del Toro-directed robots vs. monsters movie may be doing monster box office in China, but an officer in the People’s Liberation Army is no fan. “Hollywood has always been the best American propaganda machine,” wrote … Read More »
UPDATE: MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd declared Tuesday evening that Hollywood’s revenue beef with the Chinese government has been settled in favor of the studios: “The MPAA understands that the China Film Group … Read More »
Back in March it was MPAA chief Chris Dodd tub-thumping China‘s box office prowess after the organization’s Theatrical Market Statistics report showed that China accounted for $2.7B in box office sales in 2012. That vaulted the country past … Read More »