Film Bureau settles revenue split fight

China’s Film Bureau has settled a fracas over an attempt by the country’s distribs to hike ticket prices and take a higher share of revenues from Zhang Yimou’s Christian Bale starrer “The Flowers of War.”

While the higher ticket price will remain, the higher distrib share will apply only to the first $78 million the Dec. 16 release makes, with exhibs seeing a higher share thereafter.

Helmer Zhang’s longtime producer and partner Zhang Weiping said a five yuan (80¢) ticket increase was justified because “Flowers” is 145 minutes long and cost $94 million (it’s the most expensive Chinese film ever).

“The cinemas have taken fewer risks than the investors in the film. There is nothing wrong with investors making more money than the cinemas,” Zhang said.

The ticket price rise had been announced by distribs Beijing New Pictures Film, Huaxia Film Distribution and China Film Group, with distribs getting 45% of profits and the cinemas 55%. This reps a 2% rise in the distribs’ take at a time when cinemagoing has fallen by a similar amount.

Fearing that film fans would blame theater operators for pricier tickets, eight of the biggest chains, including Beijing Film Distribution and Screening Assn., Shanghai United Circuit and Zhejiang Time Cinema, threatened to boycott the pic.”The average price for a film ticket in Beijing is 35 yuan ($5.50). According to what was announced by the distributors, the film’s minimum price will be 40 yuan ($6.27). That’s a record price,” said Liu Hongpeng, VP of the Beijing Film Distribution and Screening Assn., and the Shanghai United Circuit and Zhejiang Time Cinema chains.

The Film Bureau, part of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television watchdog, stepped in to mediate.

Pic, which is China’s Oscar foreign-language entry, concerns the rape of Nanking, the massacre that followed the invasion of China’s wartime capital on Dec. 13, 1937.

It will be distributed in North America by Wrekin Hill Entertainment and Row 1 Entertainment.

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