It’s a Bollywood-Hollywood David vs. Goliath Showdown at China’s Cinemas


It’s a Bollywood-Hollywood David vs. Goliath Showdown at China’s Cinemas

Rock photo

There is something new that has occurred in China this week: two of the top four ranks at the box office have been claimed by non-Hollywood, non-English language pictures.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/robcain/2015/06/07/low-budget-indian-and-japanese-films-vy-against-100-million-hollywood-blockbuster-in-china/

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China’s Billionaire Actress Zhao Wei (赵薇)


China’s Billionaire Actress Zhao Wei (赵薇)

China’s Billionaire Actress Zhao Wei (赵薇)

Zhao Wei

The world’s wealthiest working actress is a former kindergarten teacher with such keen investing acumen that she’s been nicknamed “China’s show-business Buffett” by her country’s media.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/robcain/2015/06/06/chinas-billionaire-actress-zhao-wei-赵薇/

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Japan’s Unlikely Ambassador: a Cartoon Robot Cat From the Future Wins China’s Hearts and Minds


Japan’s Unlikely Ambassador: a Cartoon Robot Cat From the Future Wins China’s Hearts and Minds

Doraemon pic

The first Japanese movie allowed into China in 3 years is cleaning up at the (litter) box office

http://www.forbes.com/sites/robcain/2015/05/31/japans-unlikely-ambassador-a-cartoon-robot-cat-from-the-future-wins-chinas-hearts-and-minds/

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Can China Save Disney’s “Tomorrowland”?


Can China Save Disney’s Tomorrowland?

China has become a sort of haven of second chances for films that disappoint in North America and Europe. Will it give Tomorrowland the ‘do-over’ that it needs?

http://www.forbes.com/sites/robcain/2015/05/26/can-china-save-tomorrowland/

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Will Avengers 2 Beat Furious 7’s Worldwide Total? Better Ask China


Will Avengers 2 Beat Furious 7’s Worldwide Total? Better Ask China

Top 5 Hwood Films in China

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China hold the key to Avengers: Age of Ultron’s global box office fate

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” Clocks Second Best China Opening Ever With $156 Million


“Avengers: Age of Ultron” Clocks Second Best China Opening Ever With $156 Million

Dual poster

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Age of Ultron dominated China’s box office with a massive $156 million opening week, and the 3rd best PRC weekend ever at $85 million.

L.A.-Beijing Production Company Sparkstone Lands 150 Episode China TV Commitment


Scott and Long

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By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

May 7, 2015

It gives me great pride and pleasure to be the first to announce that my good friends Scott Sommer and Long Wan, co-founders of L.A. and Beijing based Sparkstone Entertainment, have sealed a deal to develop and produce as many as five television series together with leading Chinese production company Croton Media.

The agreement guarantees Sparkstone a production commitment of at least 150 episodes for both the domestic Chinese and international markets.

In the short time since they founded Sparkstone in 2014, Scott and Long have set up deals, engaged and trained talent, raised financing commitments and developed new projects at a pace unmatched by any cross-Pacific entertainment company I’m aware of, including the major Hollywood studios. They are stand-up guys supported by stand-up advisors J. Todd Harris and Craig Berenson, and Croton Media is fortunate to have them as partners.

Croton, along with its parent, Huace Film & TV, is the leading television content provider in China, controlling 15% of the overall marketplace. Recently Croton acquired the rights to the hit Sony Television series Mad About You, which the company is now developing for Chinese audiences.

As Croton Media’s President of Production Larry Gao put it, “We like the hands-on approach and development instincts the principals of Sparkstone have demonstrated. A longer term deal where we could partner on specific projects seemed like a natural fit, and they’re someone we trust.”

Sparkstone is incorporated in both the US and China with the goal of bridging Hollywood and Chinese talent and finance to create independent film and television opportunities in both countries. Aside from Croton Media, they hold development and overhead deals with such companies as HeYi Capital and mobile gaming company YouMi, and have offices in Beijing.

The Croton deal culminates for Scott and Long a year of very hard work during which they’ve set up an organization that is truly unique in China. In a territory where the importance of creative development is too rarely acknowledged or even understood, they have made a big bet on their belief in story, and the bet has paid off. Keep on an eye on this group as they undoubtedly have many more successes to come.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com

Why is China So ‘Furious’?


Paul Walker

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By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

April 22, 2015

In the weeks leading up to its April 12th opening day in China, the consensus among box office watchers was that Furious 7 would wind up with a final gross of around $125 million for its PRC run, and that its distributors would be ecstatic about that.

After all, only four Hollywood releases—Transformers 3, Transformers 4, Avatar and the 2012 Titanic re-release—have ever reached that rarefied level in China. The previous Fast & Furious installment had topped out at $68 million in Chinese receipts in 2013, a strong but not spectacular showing.

But from its earliest midnight screenings it was clear that Furious 7 wasn’t going to stick to the driver’s manual. Now, 11 days into its scorching China run, Furious 7 has amassed an incredible total of $280 million in China, and will likely finish up at about $375 million. With a May Day holiday boost and a bit of luck it could even approach $400 million. China is absolutely mad for Furious.

What was unthinkable just a few weeks ago is now a certainty: Furious 7 will not only beat the previous PRC record holder, Transformers 4, by a wide margin, but is also certain to top its own North American total. While it’s not unprecedented for films that do moderately well in North America to perform better in China than in their home territory (e.g., Pacific Rim), never before has a bona fide American smash hit exceeded its own domestic gross in a foreign territory. This is truly uncharted territory.

First 11 days comp F7Source: Pacific Bridge Pictures research

What happened? Let’s break it down.

Furious 7’s success in the Middle Kingdom can be explained partly by the same factors that made it a winner everywhere: quality marketing, high ‘want-to-see’ factor, and strong word of mouth. But several factors worked especially well in China to drive the film to its world-beating grosses:

  1. Advantageous release date. What first appeared to be a so-so Sunday release slot proved not to be a problem, mainly because Furious faced no Hollywood competition in its opening week, and it has flattened the Chinese films unfortunate enough to stand in its way. Even Chinese megastar Fan BingBing proved no match for Diesel, Walker and company, as her romance Ever Since We Love scored only $11 million this past weekend against nearly $90 million for F7.
  2. Massive release pattern. With an allocation of more than 70 percent of China’s screens, and more than 90,000 showtimes per day, this undoubtedly ranks as one of the widest releases ever seen. It’s only on the film’s third weekend that Furious will control less than half of all PRC screens as DWA’s Home and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Sabotage arrive in mainland theaters.
  3. First-class promotion. With the two-year gap since Fast and Furious 6, Universal had plenty of lead time to work with SARFT and China Film Group–an investor in the film–to arrange a smooth release and mount a stellar marketing campaign. With CFG’s clout behind it and with its new China executive team in Beijing, the studio was able to support Furious 7 with more on-the-ground resources than with any past release.
  4. Strong word of mouth. Furious notched a very high 8.5 rating on audience review site Douban.com as word spread like wildfire that Furious 7 is FUN.
  5. The Paul Walker factor. Curiosity to see the final ride into the sunset of the well-liked actor who was in many ways the heart of this franchise drew numerous Fast and Furious newbies to Chinese multiplexes. Granted, this was an important factor in most of the world, but probably more so in China, where social media can instantly make or break a movie. According to a charming Chinese banker friend of mine, Paul Walker was THE trending topic of conversation on WeChat as the film rolled out.
  6. The right movie at the right time. Furious 7 is precisely the sort of big budget, effects-driven, Hollywood action spectacular that Chinese audiences love best. Sure, superhero movies are nice, but as the Transformers franchise has amply demonstrated, what the PRC really wants is machine porn: movies featuring monster machines that race and fly and do gravity defying stunts to save the world. It had been nearly a year since the last such film in this genre, Transformers 4, had graced China’s screens, so there was lots of pent-up demand for a film like F7 when it arrived.

There’s talk around the industry that Universal hasn’t yet decided whether to produce another installment of what is now the 8th highest grossing movie franchise in Hollywood history. That the ensemble of actors may not wish to come back for another film. To this I say, “If you believe that, there’s a Wall in China that I’d like to sell you.”

With all respect to the individuals involved, there is absolutely no way that Universal is going to put this golden goose down.

There are so many options Universal has now that Furious 7 has established its status as a juggernaut franchise in mainland China. They can produce the next installment of Fast and Furious as a co-production there and be reasonably assured of recouping their entire budget in the PRC alone, with the rest of the world, including North America, as gravy. If the cast doesn’t want to come back, re-boot it with a brand new cast. Or do a China spin-off with an all-Chinese cast. Do it with talking cars if necessary, for goodness’ sake! Or call me, I’ve got a script outline and treatment ready to go. But don’t think for a second about trying to stop this mean, green, driving machine.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com

“Furious 7” Blows the Doors Off China’s Box Office Records


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Furious 7 poster

By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

April 13, 2015

Expectations were high among China’s movie biz pundits for Sunday’s opening of Furious 7, but no one came close to predicting the stunning drive-by looting the Universal release would commit at the country’s movie theaters. Prior Chinese box office records weren’t just beaten, they were throttled, smoked and thoroughly lapped by the skydriving thrillfest.

Furious 7’s opening day haul of 391 million RMB, or $63.1 million, doubled the previous opening day record of 194 million RMB set by Transformers 4 back in June of 2014 (Universal and the Hollywood trades are reporting somewhat higher numbers, but I haven’t yet seen these figures confirmed by official Chinese sources).

Furious 7’s midnight screenings likewise trounced the prior Transformers 4 midnight record of 20 million RMB ($3.3 million) with a new benchmark of 50 million RMB ($8.1 million).

The film’s opening day revenue also nearly equaled the Chinese receipts from the entire 4-week run of the franchise’s previous installment, Fast and Furious 6, which revved up 413 million RMB in 2013, good enough to place 11th in China for the year.

Perhaps most impressively, the film sold more than 10 million admissions in a single day, an attendance total that has been matched only a few times by modern day releases in North America, even though China has 40 percent fewer screens and less than half the seating capacity. What this means is that Furious 7 strained the PRC’s theaters to the limit by selling out a huge percentage of its 93,000 opening day screenings. And it completely squashed the competition, seizing a 92 percent share of the day’s box office revenue.

Top 10 single day grosses

Furious 7 should easily race to a $200 million cume by around April 20th. What happens after that, and whether it can break Transformer 4’s all-time Chinese box office record of nearly 2 billion RMB and $320 million, will depend on its ability to hold up against a slew of competing releases in the next few weeks. These include:

  • The April 17th release of the Fan Bingbing and Han Geng romance Ever Since We Love. Fan is China’s biggest female star, so this film could present a major speed bump for Furious.
  • The April 24th releases of the Dreamworks Animation toon Home and the Arnold Schwarzenegger action crime drama Sabotage. Home’s strong global tally so far bodes well for a strong PRC opening, and Arnold’s last few films have performed much better in China than they have stateside, so Sabotage should easily beat its tepid North American results.
  • The April 30th release of Helios starring Nick Cheung and Shawn Yue. Cheung and Yue’s previous outing The Man From Macau 2 grossed $154 million in February, so if their fans show up for them again they’ll put a major dent in Furious 7‘s record-breaking prospects.

Furious 7‘s surprisingly powerful start raises the bar on expectations for Marvel’s May 12th China release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. One of these movies or the other is likely to be the 2015 China box office champ. Up until last week the consensus for Avengers  was for a $175 million to $200 million cume; now that figure looks relatively unimpressive.

A major question Furious 7‘s box office bonanza brings up is whether the Chinese film authorities at SARFT will deploy their market management tactics to actively crimp the returns of upcoming Hollywood releases, in order to save face for locally made Chinese films. Avengers has what appears to be a big advantage vis a vis Furious in that it faces no major competition for nearly a month after its release. Still, Marvel and Disney should hold off on making any victory laps until SARFT reveals its hand.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com