‘Hunger Games’ cleared for China

Unedited version of Lionsgate blockbuster will go out wide

With the Chinese box office booming, Lionsgate will be seeking still more “Hunger Games” coin in that market with an early June launch for its blockbuster.

Lionsgate announced Saturday night that the Chinese government had approved the “Hunger Games” release of both dubbed and subtitled prints by the China Film Group in conjunction with Lionsgate’s promotional partner, Talent Intl. The studio said “The Hunger Games” will be one of the first Hollywood studio films to be released in China under February’s revenue-sharing agreement allowing Western distributors to collect up to 25% of receipts.

Lionsgate had told Wall Street analysts in November that “The Hunger Games” was expected to be released in China, but government approval was not finalized until very recently.

Lionsgate had told Wall Street analysts in November that “Hunger Games” had received initial government approval to play in China, but the studio had not finalized that arrangement until very recently.

International box office gross for “The Hunger Games” is already $237 million along with $380 million domestic.

Wendy Reeds, exec VP for Celestial Tiger Entertainment, Lionsgate’s venture with Saban Capital Group and Astro’s Celestial Pictures in Asia, noted that Chinese box office grew by more than 30% last year to more than $2 billion. She added that approval for a nationwide release in China of “Hunger Games ” represents a “major step in translating the enormous commercial potential of this huge market into reality.”

Recent numbers out of China have been sensational, such as the $67 million six-day opening for the 3D reissue of “Titanic,” which has hit $138 million in its fourth week. Universal’s “Battleship” has grossed $42.5 million in two weeks, and “The Avengers” opened this weekend with $17.4 million in just two days.

Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chairs Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman said, “China is already one of the leading territories at the international box office, and the launch of ‘The Hunger Games’ in this key market is another sign of the franchise’s continuing emergence as a truly global phenomenon.”

Lionsgate has taken several recent steps to tap the Chinese market. In February it announced that Celestial Tiger Entertainment had inked content deals with local VOD platforms for film and TV content including “Mad Men,” “Reservoir Dogs” and “Monster’s Ball” with the aim of penetrating China’s fast-growing VOD market.

The Celestial Tiger partnership was created earlier this year by Lionsgate, Saban and Celestial Pictures to launch branded pay TV channels and to distribute content in Asia.

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