Selasa, 09 Februari 2010

Chow Yun Fat film Confusius beat Avatar

Chow Yun Fat

Friday marks the last day of screenings of the non-3D version of Golden Globe-winning blockbuster Avatar in China. The pulling of the movie ahead of schedule has provoked speculation that the decision was to make way for domestic films, an accusation denied by film authorities.

A manager of the China Film Stellar Theater Chain, a company in charge of film distribution under the China Film Group, confirmed Wednesday that cinemas across the country will stop screening the non-3D version of the film from Saturday, the Economic Observer Newspaper reported.

Avatar had been showing on 2,500 screens – a third on 3D and IMAX screens, while the remaining two-thirds were on regular screens, which cost an average of 30 to 40 yuan a ticket, half the price of a 3D ticket. IMAX tickets, however, at 130 to 150 yuan, have been criticized as too expensive for many Chinese moviegoers.

According to Tong Gang, director of the China Film Bureau, the box office revenue of the non-3D version of Avatar only accounts for one third of total receipts nationwide, which reached more than 522 million yuan ($76 million) as of January 17, surpassing last year’s 2012 and Transformers 2 and becoming the biggest-grossing film in Chinese history.

A torrent of speculation ensued after a Hong Kong newspaper first reported the plan to pull the film, which is a global hit. Some media indicated that the decision obeyed instructions from China’s film authorities and was apparently aimed at reducing competition for homegrown films ahead of the nation’s biggest holiday season, including Confucius, a biopic of the Chinese philosopher, which opens tomorrow.

Zhang Hongsen, deputy director of the China Film Bureau, denied Wednesday that it was forcing the box office smash Avatar off local cinema screens, saying the move to take down the non- 3D version was a commercial decision.

“The rumor that Avatar was displaced by Confucius is maybe related to a time coincidence,” Zhang said. “There ought not to be any conflict as Confucius has no 3D version.”

Gao Jun, deputy general manager of the New Film Association, another theater chain under the China Film Croup, explained that the attendance rate of the non-3D version dropped sharply since last week, and a new film might naturally replace it.

The 3D and IMAX versions of Avatar, which contributed half of the box office takings in cinemas of the association, will continue to be screened due to their strong performance, Gao said, without giving an exact closing date. The original running schedule of Avatar, from January 4 to February 28, remains unchanged on China Film Croup’s website.

Liu Hui, general assistant manager at UME International Cineplex, told the Global Times that the company received a notice from the China Film Stellar Theater Chain.

According to Liu, the non-3D version has only contributed 0.8 percent to the film’s total revenue at UME theaters, while the 3D big-screen version accounts for 72 percent and the ordinary 3D format contributed 27.2 percent.

“It’s reasonable that the chain adjust the screening schedule according to the box office revenue of a movie,” Liu said. “If the non-3D Avatar gives way to other movies, potential losses could be avoided.”

UME has three five-star cinemas in Beijing and is one of the cinema companies that joined the China Film Stellar Theater Chain.

Liu, however, conceded that it is a rare move by the chain to require its cinemas to abruptly stop screening a movie.

The explanation by the theater chains is not being bought by moviegoers. “Most Chinese cities do not have well-equipped cinemas for 3D films. Where should the movie-goers turn to after the 2D version of Avatar stops screening?” a Web user said on, China’s largest Internet portal.

“Audiences will be attracted to the cinema if the movie Confucius turns out to be an excellent choice,” another user said. “It’s a pity that the local films rely on this method to compete with Hollywood.”

One user even called for a boycott of Confucius.

The Xinhua News Agency reported earlier this month that Confucius would open with 2,500 copies, making it a national record. China Film Group is also one of the major investors in the movie.

The Associated Press criticized that China remains highly protective of its domestic film industry, allowing only 20 foreign films into the Chinese market each year.

Li Daoxin, a professor in the School of Arts at Peking University, said that to frame the screening span for a movie wouldn’t be beneficial to the film industry in China, although locally produced films deserve a favorable environment and to be protected.

Liu Hui, however, expressed support for the move. “China Film Group is the distributor of both films. So they could make their decision. And when foreign movies constitute a monopoly in the movie market, we should provide some space for homemade ones,” Liu said.

Gao Jun suggested that China opening more theaters would be a solution to the fierce competition. The number of screens should be 15,000 to 20,000, he said

Latest official statistics show that the number of screens on the Chinese mainland reached 4,723 by 2009, and gross annual box office returns last year surpassed 6.2 billion yuan, up almost 43 percent from the previous year.

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