Harvest yields Chinese pix

Golden Harvest Films Inc.’s producer of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” films, Tom Gray, is about to launch an unprecedented, carefully calculated experiment by taking Chinese films uptown in 20 key U.S. locations.

Gray, senior VP of production, is not just planning commercial distribution of unlikely foreign movies for the love of cinema: He believes there’s an untapped market.

“It’s time to move this stuff out of Chinatowns,” said Gray. Hence, Golden Harvest’s new theatrical distribution subsid, Rim Film, “was formed expressly to bring Chinese movies uptown.”

The first part of Rim’s long-term plan was to take the winning combo of 14 pix from the recent Festival Hong Kong on the road. With the help of a lot of local consumer press, fest drew over 11,000 people from Dec. 16-29, 1992, and raked in $ 32,693 at Los Angeles’ Landmark Nuart cinema. Many screenings were sold out and Landmark Theatre Corp.’s Gary Meyer estimated that “80% of the audience was non-Chinese.” That’s good news for Rim.

Pix include some Jackie Chan films and helmer John Woo’s latest Hong Kong thriller, “Hard-Boiled” (he’s currently helming his first U.S. pic, “Hard Target ,” for Universal) as well as fest circuit hits like “A Chinese Ghost Story I” and “Peking Opera Blues”.

Traveling fest will visit cities with large universities, starting with Berkeley (March 11-April 8); Houston (May 20-June 2); Cambridge, Mass. (March 19 -April 1); Milwaukee (April 9-15); Minneapolis (Jan. 29-Feb. 11); San Jose (April 9-22); San Francisco (April 7-20); San Diego (May 5-18); and New York City (June 9-22).

Films will unspool in cinemas near campuses since Rim’s market research shows that “in the top 50 institutes in the country, 20%-30% (of the enrollment is) Asian students, which already gives us a target,” Gray explains.

He’s hoping Asian students will introduce Hong Kong pix to their occidental peers, as seemed to be the case in L.A. Meyer noted: “Many (young people) came in groups (in which) one person was introducing friends to the excitement of Hong Kong movies.”

Gray is planning to eventually move Hong Kong movies “off campus” and is close to inking a deal with exhib AMC.

“We feel this stuff can do as well as ‘Enchanted April’ or any of this European stuff. Out of the 65 films (Golden imports to Chinatowns annually), about 20 are crossover films.

“You’ll never see us do a 300-print release and we’ll continue to work on target markets, especially where there’s a large Asian population,” Gray continued. “But we’re sure there’s a (non-Asian) audience for these films.”

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