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Yan to Westernize local pic biz

'Pavilion' impresario to launch own marketing, distrib banner in China

“Pavilion of Women” producer-co-writer-star Luo Yan plans to bring Western-style expertise in film marketing and distribution to China.

The filmmaker intends to launch her own marketing and distribution banner on the mainland, in league with Chinese partners, after traversing the country to spearhead the ad-pub campaign for “Pavilion of Women.”

And, Yan says, with the Beijing government recently announcing it will allow foreign investors to set up film distribution firms in China as co-ventures with local partners, the time is ripe to break the distrib monopolies in major cities.

In a market where meager sums are usually spent to promote films and distribution is pretty rudimentary, Yan believes she’s proved with her pic that Western-style marketing efforts will pay handsome rewards.

Launched April 20, the romantic drama co-starring Willem Dafoe has grossed about $1.2 million from 240 screens in 10 cities. With bookings ahead in a further 20 cities, the film (Universal’s first Chinese co-production) will have played on 888 screens by the end of its three-month run. She projects a final gross of better than $2 million.

Yan, who divides her time between Beijing and L.A., estimates the total marketing spend at about $400,000 — an unprecedented figure in a market where films are launched with minimal fanfare.

There was a press junket as well as ads for TV, newspapers, billboards, subways and bus shelters. The Pearl Buck novel on which the film was based was republished — using key art from the film — as was a behind-the-scenes book.

Promo items such as umbrellas and postcards were handed out in more than 1,200 locations, including bars, coffee shops, teahouses, tennis courts, newsstands and university campuses.

To give exhibs an incentive, Yan is offering a trip to next year’s ShoWest convention to managers of the eight cinemas in which the pic achieves its highest-grosses.

“We did a large amount of work, as if we were releasing ‘Titanic,’ ” says Yan, who tubthumped the pic in five cities and racked up more than 20 TV interviews.

Yan notes she had to work more than 18 hours a day to achieve her standards, since there are no government-owned local distribution companies, no cinema booking agents or professional PR firms specializing in show business.

She’s negotiating with several Chinese players — whom she declines to name — to launch a marketing-distrib operation she hopes will be operational by year’s end. Under present rules, distribs must release five Chinese films per year to be eligible to handle one U.S. pic.

Meantime, Yan is developing her next project — “Bamboo Circle,” recounting a mission by American Special Service agents sent to China in 1943 to help repel the Japanese. It’s based on a book by one of the surviving OSS vets, Champ Gross, now 85, who resides in L.A.

Yan says she’s looking to work with a U.S. writer who’s adept at 007-type thrillers.

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