SYDNEY — There’s another reported downing of U.S. property in China, but this time, no military hardware is involved.
Luo Yan, producer, co-writer and co-star of “Pavilion of Women,” alleges that Forbidden City, Beijing’s monopoly distrib, is siphoning B.O. receipts from “Pavilion,” Universal’s first co-production with China to another film, “Purple Day.”
She notes “Purple Day” is co-produced by Forbidden City and government-financed, and believes the motive of the distrib’s execs in inflating its gross is not personal gain but to enhance their prospects of “political promotion.”
Luo says several cinemas in Beijing, which are not state-owned, told her their grosses for “Pavilion of Women” are higher than Forbidden City reported. She then confronted the distrib with her charges, she says.
“They denied everything. I wanted to pull out all our prints (from Beijing), but they refused to hand them back,” the Boston U.-educated filmmaker tells Variety from her Beijing office.
She says she was told by exhibs in Shanghai that local distrib Shanghai Paradise had transferred some receipts from her film to “Purple Day,” but not to the same degree as in Beijing.
Luo has taken her case to the China Film Import & Export agency and the Ministry of Radio, Film and Television, and says officials promised to investigate.
Despite the flap, the period romantic drama, which stars Luo as a rich wife who arranges for a much younger woman to be her husband’s concubine, grossed 6 million yuan ($723,000) from 240 screens in 10 cities over 17 days after its April 20 launch in China.
Co-starring Willem Dafoe and Yi Ding, pic will gradually expand to at least 888 screens in China. Luo projects the gross at the end of its three-month run will hit about $2.2 million.
That would compare favorably with such recent U.S. releases as “Vertical Limit” ($1.6 million), “Charlie’s Angels” ($1.8 million) and “The 6th Day” ($1.1 million).