Serbian Director Emir Kusturica to Make Movie in China

The two-time Cannes Palme d’Or winner has signed a contract with Dirty Monkey Films Group.

Two-time Cannes Palme d’Or winning Serbian director Emir Kusturica will make his next movie in China, and it will be based on works 19th century Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Kusturica was quoted by the Russian online paper as saying that he has signed a contract with a Chinese production company to make a movie in that country and is currently working on the script.

The Serbian magazine Blic specified that the company in question is Hong Kong based Dirty Monkey Films Group.

“The film will be dealing with moral dilemmas from Dostoyevsky’s works, but they will be explored in a different environment,” Kusturica was quoted as saying by

“The idea is to show the main aspects of Dostoyevsky’s works from the Chinese society’s viewpoint and thereby make the Russian classical author’s ideas closer to contemporary reality,” he went on to say.

According to Kusturica, the yet untitled film will be set in contemporary China, with the main character being a woman who has a severe sight problem and needs expensive treatment in France.

Kusturica won the Palme d’Or for When Father Was Away on Business in 1985 and Underground in 1995.

His most recent feature, On the Milky Road, starring Monica Bellucci and the director himself, premiered at Venice Film Festival last year.

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China Blocks Banks From Financing Dalian Wanda's Foreign Acquisitions

The order appears to retroactively apply to six of Wanda’s largest overseas deals, including the buyout of Legendary Entertainment and AMC Entertainment.

Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin’s cash-flow woes could be on the rise. 

The Chinese government’s top banking regulators have ordered the country’s largest financial institutions to stop lending to the tycoon to finance his overseas entertainment acquisitions, according to a document seen by The Wall Street Journal. 

Beijing officials are understood to have convened a meeting with the executives of China’s largest financial institutions on June 20, where the bankers were informed that six of Wanda’s largest overseas acquisitions — including the buyout of AMC Entertainment in 2012 and Thomas Tull’s Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion last year — were subject to the government’s restrictions on capital outflows last year.

More to come… 

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Russia and China to Produce First Ever Joint Animation TV Series

Russia’s Riki, the producer of animation franchise ‘Kikoriki,’ and China’s CCTV team up to make ‘Krosh and Panda.’

Producers of the Russian animation franchise Kikoriki are teaming up with China’s CCTV Animation to produce the first ever Russian-Chinese animation series.

Krosh and Panda, a children’s animated series with two main characters, a panda and a rabbit, will become the first project implemented under a recent intergovernmental agreement on film production between Russia and China, Riki, the production company for Kikoriki, said in a press release.

“The project aims to combine the most popular animated characters amongst children and family audiences in Russia and China and can become a symbol of development and strengthening of collaboration in art and culture between the two countries, also attracting interest of wide viewership both in Russia and China,” the company added.

Under a signed agreement, Riki and CCTV Animation plan to produce 12 52-minute episodes of Krosh and Panda in 3D CGI format over the next 18 months. All work on the project will be implemented jointly by the Russian and Chinese sides.

Launched in 2003, the Kikoriki franchise, known in Russia as Smeshariki, has been adapted in half a dozen countries, including the U.S., Germany and the U.K.

In September 2016, Los Angeles-based Shout! Factory picked up North American distribution rights to the franchise.



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China Delays Release of 'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' 'Valerian'

The move suggests that China’s media regulators have reinstated their infamous blackout on Hollywood film imports during the lucrative summer moviegoing season.

Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s worldwide box-office dominance is missing one major piece of the global puzzle: China.

So far in 2017, most major Hollywood tentpoles have opened in China day-and-date with North America, or just shortly after their U.S. debut. But sources in Beijing say Sony’s Spider-Man: Homecoming has yet to be given an official release date, which means it is unlikely to open in the world’s second-largest film market until at least August.

The same goes for 20th Century Fox’s War for The Planet of the Apes, opening in North America on Friday, and Luc Besson’s Valerian, set for a North American debut on July 21.

In an increasingly integrated — and still piracy-vulnerable — global entertainment landscape, release delays have been known to erode box office significantly.

The uncertainty surrounding these much-anticipated tentpoles is the clearest indication yet that Beijing’s media regulators intend to reinstate their infamous blackout on foreign film imports during the lucrative summer moviegoing season.

Facing a slowdown in box-office growth, regulators cut the blackout season short in 2016, allowing a handful of U.S. studio titles into the market in late July and August. Some had speculated that China might abolish the summer blackout practice altogether this year, since Washington and Beijing trade officials are currently engaged in a high-stakes renegotiation of the U.S. film industry’s terms of doing business in China. Allergic to the notion of American pop culture dominance, Beijing employs various means — including quotas, reduced revenue shares and blackouts — to limit Hollywood’s access to the massive mainland Chinese theatrical market. The United States Trade Representative office, with the MPPA’s urging, is understood to be pushing hard for China to give up such practices.

For their part, China’s movie regulators — specially, the Film Bureau, within the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television — find themselves trapped between competing priorities. Upper levels of the Chinese government are understood to demand that Chinese movies maintain at least a 55 percent market share at the national box office. At the same time, they want to see steady overall growth in the marketplace, so that China can overtake North America as the world’s largest theatrical market as soon as possible (Pricewaterhouse Coopers currently forecasts China will claim that crown in 2020).

Box-office growth remained sluggish in the first half of the year, however, with total revenue climbing just 3.7 percent. And it was Hollywood that saved the Chinese market from an embarrassing loss. With local Chinese movies continuing to underperform, regulators allowed in a record 57 foreign films during the period — 14 more than last year. As a result, Chinese movies’ market share plunged to just 39 percent. To get that number back above 55 percent — while also escaping a full-year decline and intense global trade heat from U.S. officials — the Film Bureau will have to execute some regulatory maneuvering that is nothing less than heroic.


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Wanda to Consolidate Chinese Film Assets Through Major Merger

Notably, the merger will not include the loss-making U.S. movie studio Legendary Entertainment, which Wanda acquired for $3.5 billion in early 2016.

Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, is set to take more of his film industry assets public.

Earlier this week, shares of the conglomerate’s public cinema line business Wanda Film Holding were suspended from trading on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, pending “plans to acquire film-related assets.” Wanda made its intentions clear on Tuesday in a filing to the Shenzhen exchange, saying Wanda Film Holding would acquire Wanda Film & Television Media, the previously private film production and distribution arm of the conglomerate.

Notably, the merger will not include U.S. movie studio Legendary Entertainment, which Wanda acquired for $3.5 billion in early 2016.  

More to come… 

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China Box Office: 'Despicable Me 3' Smashes Animation Records with $66M Opening

The debut was more than the entire China total of ‘Despicable Me 2’ in 2014.

Gru and his mischievous minions caused quite the ruckus at the Chinese box office over the weekend.

The Universal and Illumination Entertainment threequel opened to a historic $66 million according to Chinese box office tracking company Entgroup. It was the biggest launch ever for an animated film in the country, and the huge debut dwarfs Despicable Me 2‘s entire $53 million China run in 2014.

The third installment kicked things off with a solid $21.1 million on Friday, narrowly edging out Minions’ first day in 2015 to claim the title for the biggest opening day for an animated movie in China. 

The film has been a massive hit in overseas markets around the world; the strong China bow boosted DM3‘s foreign haul to $139 million for the weekend. The movie’s foreign total now sits at $298.4 million, compared to $149.2 million in North America and $447.8 million globally.

DM3 follows Gru (Steve Carell) as he meets up with his long-lost twin brother, Dru (also voiced by Carell). Together, they take on a diamond thief (Trey Parker). The film has scored solidly on Chinese reviews sites, with 7.1/10 on Douban and 8.6/10 on Weying.

Local horror sequel The House That Never Dies 2, from Wanda and iQiyi Pictures, opened Thursday and came in second for the weekend, earning a healthy $20.5 million in its first four days.

Chinese action-comedy The One, produced by Bona and Tencent Pictures, landed in third place with $10.5 million from Friday to Sunday.

Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight, meanwhile, slipped to fourth place in its third weekend, adding $7.4 million for a $220 million total after 17 days. Now on its last legs in China, the movie has come in way below early local estimates and far behind Transformers 4‘s $330 million China haul from 2014.  

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Chinese Cinemas Ordered to Play Propaganda Clip Before Every Movie

In one clip ‘Rogue One’ star Donnie Yen reads a famous quote from Chairman Mao.

Moviegoers in China are now getting a dose of state propaganda to go with their popcorn fare — whether they like it or not.

Beginning July 1, Beijing’s media regulators began requiring all Chinese cinemas to air one of four short propaganda videos before every film screened in the country.

The spots, roughly three minutes in length, espouse all of the Chinese Communist Party’s usual shibboleths, such as “core socialist values” and President Xi Jinping’s cherished “Chinese dream.” To help the socialist medicine go down smooth, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), which produced the videos, recruited some of China’s biggest stars, such as Jackie Chan, Fan Bingbing and Angelababy, to appear in the clips.

With epic orchestral music stirring in the background, the celebs face the camera one by one, proudly reading party slogans and ancient Chinese poetry. In one of the videos, Donnie Yen, who recently starred in Rogue One: A Star Wars story, reads a classic quote from Chairman Mao.

Earlier in the clip, Li Bingbing, who co-starred in Transformers: Age of Extinction and appears in the upcoming action movie Meg, opposite Jason Stathem, soberly states: “No matter what you do, as long as you don’t disappoint our country, our society, our people and your family, then you are helping to realize the Chinese dream.”

Several Beijing cinemas told China’s Global Times, a state-backed daily, that they were told to begin playing the video before all screenings starting July 1. No explanation was given for the request, the cinema managers said.

So far, the response to the videos appears mixed. “Many came late for the movie just to avoid the short video, and others complained about the video after watching the movie,” one cinema manager said.

Others, however, have been more receptive to the messaging: “I thought the video was great,” Zhang Xun, 34, told the New York Times earlier this week. “It was easy to understand, it spreads positive energy, and it was relevant to my life.”

Watch one of the videos below. 


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CCTV, Channel One to Launch Network With Russian Content in China

Katusha will air Russian movies, documentaries and TV shows with Chinese subtitles.

Russia’s largest state-run TV network Channel One and China Central Television (CCTV) have agreed to launch Katusha, a TV network with Russian content for Chinese audiences, Channel One said Thursday.

Katusha will feature cultural, educational, scientific and historical shows related to Russia, as well as movies and documentaries, which will be aired in Russian with Chinese subtitles.

The only programming immediately unveiled as being featured on the channel is reality TV show Ice Age, which is similar to Dancing With the Stars and pairs professional ice skaters with celebrities. The show caused some controversy last year.

Katusha will primarily target Chinese audiences, and the network will be allowed to run commercials from Russian companies, which, Channel One hopes, will attract Russian companies working in the Chinese market or planning to enter it as advertisers, the network said.

Alexei Yefimov, general director of Channel One. Global Network, the Russian network’s subsidiary in charge of developing Katusha, was quoted by Russian business daily Vedomosti as saying that Katusha will be the first foreign-owned network in China to be issued a license for local viewers.

It is set to be launched before the end of the year under an agreement between the two countries’ governments.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed to launch a Russian content TV network in China several years ago, but negotiations about the specifics took a while, eventually resulting in the signing of an agreement in Moscow this week.

In Russia, CCTV’s Russian-language network is already available. The launch of Katusha comes at a time when the two countries have been looking to collaborate more closely in the area of media and entertainment.


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Wanda Film Eyes Further Acquisitions, Reports Higher First-Half Profit

The Chinese conglomerate, headed by billionaire Wang Jianlin, sparked speculation in industry circles this week as trading in its film arm’s stock was suspended pending the acquisition of “film-related assets.”

Despite lackluster growth at the Chinese box office, Beijing-based conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group reported a solid uptick in operating income at its film unit during the first half of 2017.

Wanda Film Holding Co., formerly known as Wanda Cinema Line, reported operating income of 6.65 billion yuan ($980.1 million) from January to June, an increase of 16 percent over the year-ago period.

Wanda Film contains Wanda Group’s Chinese movie theater circuit and other film-related entities, such as film merchandising company Mtime, which the conglomerate acquired for $350 million last year. U.S.-based Legendary Entertainment and several of Wanda’s local Chinese movie businesses are not housed within the unit, however — although Wanda has stated that it hopes to eventually consolidate its film assets into the publicly-traded entity.   

A brief earnings report released by the company to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange Monday stated that Wanda Film currently operates 445 cinemas in China, with a total of 4,000 screens. The total gives Wanda just under a 10 percent share of China’s total screen count. According to the country’s media regulator, China now has 47,000 screens versus nearly 41,000 in the U.S.

In a separate filing on Thursday, Dalian Wanda Group said first-half revenue surged 12 percent across the group as a whole. The property developer turned global entertainment powerhouse, headed by Wang Jianlin, one of China’s richest individuals, said January-June revenue reached 134.85 billion yuan ($19.8 billion), exceeding internal targets. The company does not provide profit figures for its privately-held business units.

The conglomerate’s culture industry group — which includes publicly traded Wanda Film, domestic Chinese film production and distribution businesses, Legendary Entertainment and AMC Entertainment in the U.S., along with British yacht maker Sunseeker and other assets — reported a revenue increase of 5.9 percent to 30.8 billion yuan.

The revenue gains were strongest in Wanda’s financial group — another area of investment and expansion — where revenue rose 46.8 percent to 20.6 billion yuan.

Wanda has been one of China’s most internationally acquisitive private businesses, snapping up entertainment, sports and tourism assets around the world. The heavy spending has attracted the notice of Beijing regulators, who asked local banks to assess their exposure to the recent borrowing by Wanda, Fosun and other Chinese giants.

Wanda appears to have lost little of its appetite for expansion, however. Earlier this week, Wanda Film shares were suspended from trading on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, pending “plans to acquire film-related assets.”


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China Box Office Remains Sluggish in 2017, Despite Big Hollywood Gains

The market expanded just 3.7 percent in the first half of the year, with imported movies claiming 61 percent of revenue — the widest margin in five years.

Anemic growth remains the worrying trend at the once booming Chinese box office.

In the first half of 2017, movie ticket revenue in China rose just 3.7 percent, totaling 25.5 billion yuan ($3.8 billion) compared to 24.6 billion yuan over the same period last year, according to Beijing-based research firm Ent Group. The sluggish start to the year is consistent with China’s shock correction in 2016, when full-year box-office growth plummeted to just under 4 percent after expanding by a yearly average of 35 percent for half a decade.

Reflecting the downbeat data, PriceWaterhouseCoopers recently revised its forecast for China’s ascendance over North America as the world’s largest movie market, pushing back the date to 2021 from 2017.

The news for U.S. studio execs was much rosier, however, as Hollywood’s Chinese earnings in the first half of 2017 were in line with former boom times. Revenue from imported movies climbed 34.5 percent, hitting 15.6 billion yuan ($2.3 billion) from January to June, compared to 11.6 billion yuan in the first half of last year.

The gains by overseas film companies matched an influx of foreign-made product. Working to ward off an embarrassing overall decline, Chinese regulators eased restrictions on Hollywood imports in the first half, allowing 57 foreign films to be released during the period — 14 more than last year.

International movies claimed 61 percent of ticket sales in China in the first half, by far the biggest margin since 2012. Last year, foreign titles took just 47 percent.

The biggest drag on growth, indeed, was the conspicuous absence of Chinese hits. The biggest local title of the year so far was Jackie Chan’s Kung Fu Yoga, which earned just shy of 1.8 billion yuan ($255 million at the time of release) over Chinese New Year in January — a sizable haul for sure, but a far cry from Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid, which took an astonishing 3.4 billion yuan last year ($528 million at 2016 exchange rates). The second quarter was especially bereft of successful local movies — among the 10 best-selling films in the quarter, only two were made in China.

Among the many high-performing imported movies, 2017’s three biggest thus far are: Universal’s The Fate of the Furious ($388 million), Aamir Khan’s surprise Bollywood smash hit Dangal ($190 million), and Transformers: The Last Knight ($206 million and counting).

China’s state media have tried to put a more optimistic gloss on the H1 results. Since the start of 2017, regulators began counting the service fees charged by online ticketing platforms as box-office revenue. Regulators say including the fees more accurately reflects consumer spending on moviegoing, since over 80 percent of all tickets are now bought online through such services. Many analysts, meanwhile, have argued that the inclusion is a blatant attempt to juice the numbers during a downturn, and that ticketing service fees aren’t an appropriate piece of box office, since the various stakeholders in a film’s success — producers, distributors, cinemas — do not share in this revenue.

Using the enhanced numbers, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said Monday that the nation’s box office had “already seen a year-on-year growth of 10.5 percent in the first half of 2017.” 

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