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Archive for July 6th, 2011

The Golden Rock - Beginning of a Great Revival Edition

No, this entry is not going to be purely on the communist propaganda flick. The title actually refers to the revival of this blog. The Golden Rock has been away for a while due to various issues (mainly time-related) and the shift to Twitter. For that I can only offer an apology to Boss Kozo and people who read on a regular basis, and I hope that this revival will last more than a few entries.


With that, the blog will not be updated on a daily basis. I will be tightening the focus back to Hong Kong and China, since there’s already plenty of news to cover in these two regions. Rather than line-by-line links, the blog entries will be more focused on analysis of each story. You will see that new format below.


As always, there will be no gossip, because whether Lucas Tse is changing his last name is none of my concern, and it probably isn’t yours, either (unless you’re a member of the family or Lucas’ school). On the other hand, if Cecilia Cheung causes production on THE LION ROARS 2 to stop because of her divorce, then it’ll be covered here.


For broader coverage of Asian cinema, please visit Film Business Asia. They are where I go to most for English-language Asian cinema coverage, and I recommend all to do the same.


So here we go:


- First story today is on Jacob Cheung’s REST ON YOUR SHOULDER. The Chinese media has been covering this film intensely ever since its premiere at the Shanghai Film Festival (it played in competition). It’s hard to dig through all the rumors and speculation, but here are what appear to have happened:


Cheung’s investors have spent RMB 60-70 million (a fairly high budget for its genre) on a special effects-filled fantasy starring Aloys Chen, Guey Lun Mei, and Gigi Leung. However, Cheung’s absence at the festival screening has sparked rumors that Cheung is perhaps not happy with how the film is being presented. Also, the distributor took many steps, including heavy security and playing it at a small auditorium, to make sure the film is not shown to a large audience, which also points to possible nervousness on the part of the distributors that the film isn’t very good.


At the festival, the head of the production company stated to the press that the theatrical version of the film will be cut to 90 minutes (from 120), which further fueled the “Cheung not happy” rumors. Two weeks ago, the production company gave in and said that the full 120-minute cut will be the theatrical version (especially ironic, given Derek Elley’s review).


Just when things seem to be settling, Cheung wrote on his Sina Weibo this past weekend that he has been waiting in Beijing to be contacted about promotion for the film, but no one has asked him to do so. It’s even messier because the production company has canceled promotional events with “talent unavailability” as an excuse (after Chen and Guey publicly stated they are fully behind the film). Now the talk is that the production company are simply giving up for some reason. Meanwhile, Cheung has taken to Weibo to promote the film on his own, with Charlie Yeung and other celebrities passing the word. The distributor has been contacted, and they said they are shocked by Cheung’s weibo entry. They also pointed out that the stars are all currently tied up on other projects (Aloys on PAINTED SKIN 2, Jian Yi Yan is doing a play, and the others as well).


Opening just four days after Peter Chan’s WU XIA, what will happen to REST ON YOUR SHOULDER this weekend? I’ll be watching the film this weekend on opening day in Shenzhen, and we’ll know whether Cheung’s efforts worked next week when the box office numbers are out.


Story is mostly from this article (and other articles) at mtime


- Speaking of WU XIA, the film opened on July 4th in China. However, a controversy has already brewed up before the day ended, as netizens uploaded pictures of their handwritten tickets from China’s Jinyi Cinemas chain on Weibo. Those posts were deleted several hours later.


Here’s how it works: You walk up to the box office, and you buy a ticket to WU XIA. However, the theater hands you a ticket to BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL instead and writes down your WU XIA showing information by hand. Yes, you can still watch WU XIA with your ticket, but the computer marks down that your money went to BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL. This happened reportedly in several cities.


Damage control was quickly initiated, with the cinema chain’s spokesperson explaining that the ticket buyers changed their mind, and their staff hadn’t followed proper procedure by printing new tickets and canceling the other ones. China Film Group denies that they have any hand in it, and WU XIA’s distributors have also said that they’ve spoken to the cinema chain and that the matter is “settled”. WU XIA’s distributor is also now offering a RMB 1,000 reward for any reports of such box office gouging, so if you get a handwritten ticket for WU XIA in China, be sure to send it in to Stellar.


This is not the first time “box office gouging” has happened. Back in December, netizens discovered that people were buying tickets to MY NAME IS NOBODY and ended up getting a printed ticket to SACRIFICE. Netizens are wising up to the practice, and it’s likely this will only be a temporary fad.


- And now, China box office:


As expected, BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL led the box office chart again, but the weeklong gross was not as high as I had predicted, given that the party would want to score on the big CCP anniversary. Between June 27th and July 3rd, BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL made RMB 92.15 million for a 19-day total of RMB 317.15 million. This is not close to the final gross of FOUNDING OF A REPUBLIC, and nowhere near the 30 million admissions / RMB 800 million gross that China Film Group is targeting.


So, what happened? The film had a significantly reduced number of showings this week (from 88,000 shows to 64,000), and the film faced competition from new entries TREASURE INN (which made an impressive RMB 54.5 million), THE DEVIL INSIDE ME (RMB 8.15 million), and the dubbed French flick COURSIER (RMB 8.1 million), as well as stayovers THE PRETENDING LOVERS (RMB 28.1 million after 10 days), SNOW FLOWER AND SECRET FAN (RMB32.75 million after 10 days), and ANIMALS UNITED (RMB39.95 million after 10 days). KUNG FU PANDA has also now passed the RMB600 million mark.


I had two reactions to this news (in order): Why didn’t the party/China Film Group do something to rig the numbers, and why am I surprised that China Film Group ISN’T rigging the numbers (especially with 80 million communist party members in China alone)? We were so bombarded in foreign media about how hard the party is pushing this film that we’re surprised when they follow the rules, and now the film seems to be performing beneath expectations. Shouldn’t we be ashamed of the assumptions and distrust we’re putting into this system, especially when they’re (appearing to be) proving us wrong?


China Film Group’s response to the current box office performance of BEGINNING OF GREAT REVIVAL? “When there’s a big film, shows will be cut accordingly. Everything will operate as the market dictates.” They have also said they’re ready for the release of TRANSFORMERS 3 on July 21st.


By the way, no one has confirmed there’s a cap that stops all foreign films from being released until REVIVAL hits 800 million. If China Film Group is going ahead with the July 21st release for TRANSFORMERS, then the quote in this New York Times story is wrong. Want to know why I kind of believe CFG? Because they’re distributing TRANSFORMERS, too.


- Short bits of production news:


  • Daniel Lee has officially wrapped the shoot for WHITE VENGEANCE, starring Leon Lai, Zhang Hanyu, Anthony Wong, and Jordan Chan. The film will reportedly now aim for a late November release. This now locks down the films coming in the year-end slot: WHITE VENGEANCE, Derek Yee’s THE GREAT MAGICIAN, Zhang Yimou’s HEROES OF NANJING, Tsui Hark’s FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE, and (supposedly) Wong Kar Wai’s GRANDMASTER. Sure they don’t want to shuffle that a little bit?
  • Zhou Dongyu, Richie Ren, Gigi Leung, Aarif Lee, and Teddy Robin will be starring in QIN CHENG ZHI LIAN (no English title yet), a tearjerker directed by Barbara Wong. The film began shooting on July 21st, and it’s aiming to open at the end of December. I’m afraid. Very afraid.

Next time: “How much did they pay them”?! / Stephen Fung starts on Tai Chi / SEX AND ZEN boosts Hong Kong box office in first half of 2011. Copyright © 2002-2018 Ross Chen