‘Wedding’ first to go out under new deal

Some studios wary of revenue-sharing plan

SYDNEY — Chalk up another milestone for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” The indie phenom will set a precedent when it bows next month in China, opening up a new avenue for releasing U.S. and other foreign films in that vast market. The romantic comedy will be the first title to be distributed on a new revenue-sharing formula, outside the unofficial annual quota of 20 imports.

Launching May 23, “Greek Wedding” will be released in the key cities on the same terms as the standard revenue-sharing contract (which typically gives U.S. studios 13%-15% of the B.O.) Pic will be made available on flat sale terms to outlying cities and provinces. The China Film Group has been keen to persuade Hollywood to supply films on this limited revenue-sharing basis as a way of securing more product than is allowed under the quota.

Warner Bros., which has the rights to “Wedding” in China, is the first to step up to the plate. Other distribs have reacted cautiously to news of this deal, and one has already nixed the concept. Some studios have long argued it’s preferable to concentrate on lobbying Beijing to increase or abolish the quota or negotiate better terms.

An exec at United Intl. Pictures, which reps Paramount, Universal and DreamWorks, said, “UIP feels it is in our long-term interests to get films released on full revenue share.” Columbia TriStar’s Ralph Alexander said, “We’re reassessing our position; we have not made a decision.”

Veronika Kwan-Rubinek, WB prez of international theatrical distribution, told Variety, “Major blockbusters like ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Matrix’ can benefit from a broad release and are released under the standard revenue-sharing agreement nationwide, while others have more of a key-city appeal. We believe ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ is a wonderful film with unique appeal and will do very well in the large cities in China.”

Not surprisingly, WB sibling New Line is in favor. “Our position is to release as many movies as possible in China. Thus we are willing to release certain pictures on a limited-revenue-sharing basis,” said Nestor Nieves, New Line Intl. exec VP sales.

One studio rep, who requested anonymity, said, “We fear China Film now won’t have any incentive to increase the quota because they will be able to get these films outside the quota.”

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and “The Recruit” have been released in China so far this year. “Maid in Manhattan” preemed April 4, and set for coming weeks are “Catch Me If You Can,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and “Daredevil.”

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