All four of the Disney-owned “Avengers” movies and James Cameron’s “Avatar” are being lined up for re-release in China when cinemas begin to re-open after the coronavirus outbreak dies down.
China Film Group, the state-owned giant that controls distribution of all revenue-sharing Hollywood movies, and also dominates physical distribution in the Middle Kingdom, last week contacted exhibitors with a list of 11 titles that it wants to re-release. It said it would add to the list in the following days.
That list now appears to include a phased release of Marvel’s four “Avengers” movies, with outings starting Thursday. Pixar animation hit “Coco” may also resurface imminently, said 1905.com, the website of state-owned broadcaster China Movie Channel. They will be allowed to play until May or June.
Contacted by Variety, sources close to Disney in Asia said the studio is not involved in the re-releases, and that these are matters decided on by China Film.
More than 500 cinemas have already reopened their doors. But takings have so far been minimal. Larger numbers of theaters could re-open in the next month as China re-emerges from the various national and state restrictions on movement.
A 3D, 4K restoration of Warner Bros’ “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was the most high-profile addition and the first Hollywood studio title that would previously have been released as a revenue-sharing quota import. It is listed on ticketing apps as debuting April 30, but other sources show different dates.
“Jojo Rabbit,” which has not yet been released, is now set to reach the specialty cinemas of the National Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas on April, 4, according to 1905.com
The initial list included one foreign film — Lebanese director Nadine Labaki’s 2018 Cannes Jury Prize-winner “Capernaum” — and four Chinese blockbusters: Peter Chan’s 2013 “American Dreams in China,” 2015’s “Wolf Totem,” directed by France’s Jean-Jacques Annaud, and two of the country’s highest grossing films of all time, the patriotic titles “Wolf Warrior 2” and sci-fi adventure “The Wandering Earth.”
Other U.S. films that appear to be being lined up include Oscar-winning “Green Book,” which grossed $71 million in China, Amblin Partners’ Dennis Quaid-starring “A Dog’s Purpose” and its sequel, “A Dog’s Journey,” which earned $88.2 million and $29 million in the country, respectively, all of which count Chinese tech giant Alibaba as a partner or investor.
Re-releasing well-loved older titles minimizes financial risk and does not require audiences to experiment with untried content. With the Chinese public still uncertain about whether and when to venture back into crowded places such as cinemas, none of the Chinese-made tentpole movies which had their planned Chinese New Year releases are yet willing to commit to a post-virus release date.
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