China and South Korea are building important bridges in the film industry. The Chinese Film Festival opened in Seoul on Sunday with a screening of Wong Kar Wai's martial-arts epic The Grandmaster.
The five-day festival will include screenings of eleven Chinese films in a market where the Chinese film industry has yet to make an impact. Eight of the films at the festival have not been previously screened in the country, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Korean production company CJ Entertainment has organized the Chinese Film Festival in South Korea since 2006 with support from the Korean Film Council and China's State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television.
CJ Entertainment recently announced a deal to co-produce and distribute The Fist, an upcoming sci-fi/action spectacle directed by Park Kwang-hyun. The deal is in partnership with China Film Group, according to a report from Screen Daily.
China continues to expand its influence in co-productions and domestic distribution deals by aligning itself with another major box office market in the region. Growing collaboration between the countries is yet another signal of China's increased role in the global film industry.
The Chinese hit So Young opened in three North American theaters this weekend. The film has been hugely successful in China, where it has brought in a total of $115 million after 45 days in release. The total North American take from 3 locations for So Young is $5,000. An updated theater count is coming from distributor China Lion in the coming days.
Another weekend at the top of the Chinese box office helped Star Trek Into Darkness launch well above the performance of its predecessor in the global box office. The sci-fi sequel raked in $12.73 million last week, its second in release, to reach a robust $38.77 million total. It's a considerably better showing than Tom Cruise's Oblivion, which placed ninth after a month in release with a $23.86 million cume.
Star Trek Into Darkness has grossed $176.4 million overseas, close to $50 million above the previous entry's final tally. The film is scheduled to debut in France, Italy, Brazil, Switzerland, and Israel this weekend. The support from the Chinese audience has done its part in helping expand the Star Trek brand globally, but the film will need strong performances from France, Italy, and Brazil to break the $200 million mark. It won't be an impossible task, specially if the China grosses hold before the June 20th release of Man of Steel.
The explosive debut of Switch, the domestic action blockbuster starring Andy Lau and Zhang Jingchu, took in $8.01 million in its first day in release. The film will likely thrive in coming weeks, squaring off against Hollywood's Man of Steel in a couple of weeks.
Box Office Results for China. Week Ending on June 11, 2013.
Box Office data couresty of Entgroup
Rush Hour fans are more likely to see a Jackie Chan musical before a fourth entry of the popular action franchise. Chan winced at mentioning the possibility of Rush Hour 4 during a conversation preceding the screening of his latest film, Chinese Zodiac, in New York. Chan held a public conversation at the Film Society of Lincoln Center preceding the screening. The actor attended the event to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Asian Film Festival.
"When I go to Hollywood, I don't get to do what I want to do," confessed the martial arts legend. "They always say: 'Hey, Jackie - Rush Hour 2! Rush Hour 4!"
Chan's last live-action Hollywood film was 2010's The Karate Kid remake, co-starring Jaden Smith. Chan explained that the role interested him because it showcased his acting abilities, a factor he believes is overlooked when receiving offers for Hollywood films. Jackie Chan has instead been focusing on his filmmaking career in his native Hong Kong, where he can produce projects on his own terms for a bountiful Asian film market. Chinese Zodiac is Jackie Chan's 101st entry in a lengthy filmography that has traversed the world since the late 1970s. Chinese Zodiac was a massive hit in China, the world's second most important film market, grossing an estimated $140 million. With a direct line to mainland's China audience, there is no rush for Jackie Chan to return to Hollywood for a project he doesn't believe in.
"Scripts, even today, are the same as forty years ago," expressed Chan, showing disappointment with the Hollywood offers he's received. "They only write: 'Funny fighting,' 'Serious fighting, 'Spectacular fighting!' Then I look at the writer and say, 'Yeah, spectacular, can you write a spectacular script?'"
The main difference in what Jackie Chan describes as the "Hong Kong" action-film production style begins at the script stage. "It's not like an American film where you have a whole script that you fill up with action. [In Hong Kong] we have all action that we fill up with script."
The 59-year-old actor has spent the bulk of his time producing films in Hong Kong, where he says the production style better suits the sensibility of his films. According to Chan, screenplays are rarely completed when films go into production. Rewrites are common and the scripts are closely guarded by the producers, with actors only receiving that day's pages worth of work without having read the entire screenplay. This has been the case for decades in Hong Kong, explains Chan, where shoots are streamlined and films are made as quickly and cheaply as possible. If the completed screenplay where to be distributed among production members, the film runs the risk of having the script leak and ultimately having a carbon-copy of the film hit theaters before the production is completed.
Jackie Chan's recent career decisions have been more geared to include social messages and positive role models. The result might be well intentioned but doesn't exactly work for Chinese Zodiac, which is weighed down by facile inspirational messages that come off as awkwardly preachy. It represents an improvement in Chan's own self-evaluation, as the actor shared with the audience at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. "I look back on Drunken Master II and think to myself, why am I telling people to drink and fight?"
Despite his reticence over another Rush Hour sequel, Jackie Chan did admit to being open to hear pitches for another installment. Next up for the actor is a role in the action-star anthology The Expendables 3. Instead of speaking about his return to Hollywood during a press conference at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Jackie Chan spent several minutes excitedly promoting an in-the-works autobiographical stage musical he is currently developing. The project is to be based on his memoir, "I am Jackie Chan." Jackie Chan had previously mentioned the project in a 2010 interview with Conan O'Brien. The world will have to wait to see if the stage musical is ever realized. If he can sing as well as he can fight, Broadway will have to keep a close eye on Jackie Chan.
MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd recently admitted he was hoping for a Hollywood-China relationship without an overseas quota, according to an interview the former Senator granted to Variety.
Dodd spoke to the trade publication from China, where he was meeting with Ci Fuchao, the new minister overseeing the State Adminitration of Radio, Film, and TV, and Tong Gang, head of China's Film Buraeu, the entity with the powerful to decide which overseas films make it to theaters.
The MPAA Chairman addressed several of Hollywood's existing concerns with the world's number two film market, including late payments and the infamous "blackout" periods that pull overseas films from release in order to give an advantage to Chinese productions. According to Variety, The Croods was recently pulled from theaters in order to give competing Chinese animated films a leg up around the Childrens' Day holiday. Fox last reported a $60.6 million cumulative gross for The Croods in China as of June 2.
China increased its state sponsored quota of overseas films for theatrical release in February 2012. The number nearly doubled, going from 20 films to 34. Chinese co-prodcutions are exempt from this quota. The specific limitations of a Chinese co-production, however, come at a creative cost for producers and filmmakers. Recent films like Iron Man 3 have instead opted for a hybrid approach, openly courting for approval from Chinese censors and audiences alike by avoiding potentially sensitive subject matter and including "China-friendly" cuts featuring scenes with popular Chinese actors. The strategy worked for Iron Man 3, which has already grossed a massive $120.6 million from the territory.
Chinese censors are difficult to convince, however, as other high-profile films have fallen out of favor and seen themselves locked out of the market. Django Unchained was pulled from theaters during its opening day, only to be rescheduled in a brutal release window in close proximity to the premieres of Oblivion and Iron Man 3. Django floundered upon its newly scheduled release, currently posting a meager $2.78 million in China. World War Z, a production which had been careful not to alienate Chinese censors in its globe-trotting zombie apocalypse storyline, was rejected by Chinese censors last week, according to a report from The Wrap.
The face-to-face meetings indicate hope for a closer working relationship between Hollywood and the world's second most important film market.