‘Deepwater Horizon’ to Get China Release as Country Appears to Be Expanding Quotas

Peter Berg’s “Deepwater Horizon” has firmed up a release in Chinese theaters next month. It joins a crowded November as the Middle Kingdom’s regulators appear to be expanding the import quotas.

The disaster drama will get an outing on Nov. 15. Online ticketing sites have already begun selling seats.

The film is financed and distributed by Lionsgate Entertainment’s Summit Entertainment unit. The China release will be handled jointly by Leomus Pictures and China Film Corp. Leomus is the distribution arm of Hunan TV, the regional Chinese broadcast group that last year struck an investment and distribution agreement with Lionsgate.

“Deepwater” adds to the competition for Chinese eyeballs in an already busy period for Hollywood releases in the Middle Kingdom.

“Mechanic: Resolution,” “Inferno,” “Trolls,” and “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” are already in Chinese theaters. “Doctor Strange” and Fox’s “Keeping Up With the Joneses” are scheduled to open in the interim — on Nov. 4 and Nov. 8, respectively.

Co-produced by China’s Bona Film Group, Studio 8’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” will also debut in China on Nov. 11.

China’s regulators normally operate a quota of some 34 imported titles per year that can be released on revenue sharing terms. The large majority of revenue sharing slots go to Hollywood studio movies, with other titles from U.S. mini-majors and independents frequently obtaining flat fee import deals.

Though the revenue sharing quota figure has rarely been applied exactly, this year the Hollywood total appears set to expand to an unusual 38 or more. Also releasing in November is the “Harry Potter” spinoff “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” going out on Nov. 25, just a week after its North American outing.

Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” is set for a release in December. In normal years the peak cinemagoing month is off limits for new releases of Hollywood titles as regulators seek to maximize the potential for local movies.

The expansion of the revenue sharing quota and the softening of the traditional blackout periods both appear to be moves to reinvigorate China’s box office. Theater attendances abruptly began to stagnate in June after a decade of almost unbroken growth.

Even single figure revenue growth would be terrible news for the country’s exhibitors which have invested billions in bringing thousands of new screens into operation in the past two years. A prolonged slowdown would also dent the performance of China Film Corp., the state-owned distributor that has duopoly control over revenue sharing film releases, and which finally floated its shares on the Shanghai stock market this summer.

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