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Archive for July 25th, 2011

The Golden Rock - July 24, 2011 Edition

First, we’re following up on the “internal memogate” that we devoted our previous entry to:

- A reporter for Sina has followed up on the story and managed to come up with the actual memo that even includes literally the stamps of approval from all six committees: The Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China, State Administration of Radio, Television, and Film, The Organization Department of the Communist Party of China, the People’s Liberation Army General Political Department, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, and the so-called “Good Activities Guidance Committee” (not actual English name).

However, the approved memo simply includes the point about using union/party membership fees to pay for the film. It also orders the PLA to organize screenings for its troops, that departments must ensure that as many people as possible get to see the “excellent recommended films”, and for the media to give these “excellent recommended films” as much coverage as possible to provide “positive guidance” and “elevate its influence amongst audiences”. What it DOESN’T include is that theaters should piggyback the films on any other films as double features and gouge box office gross.

Instead, it was the theaters who decided to do it. The reporter got in touch with Wu Hehu, the Vice President of the Shanghai United Circuit, where the original memo originated. Wu outright admitted that the internal memo, which was specifically for the Shanghai United Circuit, does exist, and that he believes it’s the cinemas’ responsibility to promote Chinese-made films. This is his exact quote (loosely translated):

“What people think is their business, we will not refute them. We are upholding our own responsibilities. The six committees asked us to recommend these three films to more audiences, and we have a responsibility to use any means necessary to promote Chinese films. We are upholding our own responsibilities.”

To be clear, the government nor China Film Group never asked on paper for these special “double features” and “group tickets”.  This is purely the act of at least one cinema chain. The reporter surveyed several Beijing cinemas and saw no such promotion. Also, Gao Jun, a cinema chain owner and the guy that’s been quoted by the western media about the so-called 800 million yuan requirement for BEGINNING OF GREAT REVIVAL, also said that his cinemas are not using such a tactic.

As for the minimum ticket price, TRANSFORMER’s distributor has revealed that the minimum ticket price for the 35mm version is 15 yuan and 20 yuan for the 3D version, which means the 20 yuan share for TRANSFORMERS pointed out in the previous entry does NOT break the law.

In other words, it’s douchey, but it ain’t illegal. Take that, world!

If you care (and most chances is that you don’t), TRANSFORMERS 3 broke the record for highest opening day in China (91 million yuan), highest midnight show grosses in China (12 million yuan), and highest single-day box office in China (112 million yuan on July 23rd.). It is the first film is make more than 100 million yuan in a single day. After 3 days, the robot fightin’ movie has made 295 million yuan. By now, it has likely beaten the total box office gross of BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL and maybe even FOUNDING OF A REPUBLIC. Michael Bay: Communist propaganda killer!

- In case you haven’t noticed, it’s been a pretty exciting week for trailer fans. We saw the latest trailers for THE GRANDMASTER, THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE, and if you’re at a Chinese cinemas this weekend, you can add Tsui Hark’s FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE (and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES teaser, but that doesn’t matter) to that list. A news article has pointed out that the battle of the December films has started early, with all three of these films premiering their trailer in the same week in cinemas. However, note that the GRANDMASTER December release date is only tentative, just like the last 20 release dates Sil-Metropole scheduled.

With these (especially GRANDMASTER and FLYING SWORDS) and the not-too-bad LOVE IN SPACE teaser that also hit the web this week, it seems that the art of trailer is now being appreciated in Chinese cinema. A executive at Polybona (who’s releasing the Tsui Hark film) says that trailers used to be just about three things: introducing the main talents, introducing the film’s genre, and introducing the film’s release date. Now, a film will release multiple trailers - a teaser, a final trailer, and sometimes one more in between - as part of their extended promotional campaigns.

To be honest, I really was impressed by these new trailers. It’s not because they make the films look good (some do, some don’t), but rather because it seems like film companies here finally recognize the value of well-made trailers. Due to resources and other unknown reasons, Hong Kong trailers tend to be put together very sloppily without much sense of storytelling. Instead, they simply serve the points of showing cool moments/dialogue and introducing the stars. As a result, you have trailers that literally tells you nothing about the film except the people in it. The last really great Hong Kong trailer I can remember is ISABELLA. Yes, it may have something to do with me being a Pang Ho-Cheung fan, but the trailer makes me want to watch the film again whenever I see it. Not only do the song and the visuals effectively establish the tone of the film; the dialogue actually gives you an idea what the story is about for once. Once you’ve sat through it, you want to see more of it. THAT’S what a good trailer is about.

What do the LOVE IN SPACE, FLYING SWORDS, and GRANDMASTER trailers have in common? None of them tells you what the story will be, but all three of them give you a taste of the tone of the film instead of just the selling point of the film. Not only are they clear about the tone they want to strike with audiences, they also work as well-edited pieces of video in their own right.

Of course, there’s also the issue of really good trailers leading to really bad films (MR. AND MRS. INCREDIBLE, anyone?), but that’s not something we’ll talk about here.

Two other trailers hit the web this week: Wong Jing’s TREASURE HUNT (Starring Cecilia Tse Cheung, Ronald Cheng, and Lucas Tse), and the new TVB/Shaw Brothers production FORTUNE BUDDIES. They open in Hong Kong on August 18th and August 11th, respectively.

And if you’ve read this far, here’s a little reward for you.

- Back to Hong Kong news, Juno Mak picked up the Best Actor award at the Puchon Fantastic Film Festival for REVENGE: A LOVE STORY. I’ll let Film Business Asia pick up the rest later on.

- With the announcement of the Venice Film Festival line-up coming this week, Sina speculates which Chinese-language films has a chance of getting in. For strictly Mainland China, we have Zhang Yimou’s NANJING HEROES and THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE. Ann Hui’s A SIMPLE LIFE may end up representing Hong Kong/China. There’s word that Taiwan’s mega-budget SEEDIQ BALE is a shoo-in.

Also, the report updates the production statuses of several high-profile director’s latest: Wang Quan’an’s latest film just started the scoring process and is nowhere near completion. Lu Chuan’s LAST SUPPER is still in production. LIFE IN PRINCIPLE recently just began reshoots. Wang Shaoshuai already said his latest film will go to a very reputable film festival that doesn’t have an official competition (report guesses Toronto).

And now, I read Weibo so you don’t have to:

- Dante Lam writes that he’s already cut a one-minute long trailer for THE VIRAL FACTOR. The action film literally just wrapped shooting and is aiming for a Lunar New Year release.

- Wong Jing writes that the Nicholas Tse letter to Cecilia Cheung floating around the internet has to be fake because Nic’s Chinese is just OK, and that he would write such a letter in English, not Chinese.

- Yang Zi, the director of CHASE OUR LOVE and executive producer of THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE, unveiled a new musical to star Eva Huang (rumored to be….well, I don’t have to say it). Hong Kong director Lee Lik Chi was also at the press conference, but he’s not the director. He was apparently just there.

Next time: Finally we’ll look at how one Chinese new report analyzes why BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL flopped, and maybe the in-depth story about REST ON YOUR SHOULDER. It depends how much sleep we get here.

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