China Films ready to go to war

Agency aims to release 'Pearl Harbor'

SYDNEY — The small matter of a diplomatic row between the U.S. and China after the spy plane incident has not curbed Beijing’s eagerness to secure U.S. films to prop up the country’s ailing cinema industry, even when those films are about war.

Showing the kind of enthusiasm — and keen eye for moneymaking blockbusters — you’d expect from exhibs in the West, a China Film Import & Export exec told Variety last week the agency aims to release “Pearl Harbor” in late August.

The official was happy to nominate a release date, even though Michael Bay’s costly epic has not been seen — and thus is not yet approved — by Beijing censors. Considering the pic centers on an attack promulgated by historic China enemy Japan, that approval is apparently considered a mere formality. (Told of China Film’s eagerness to embrace the pic, a Disney exec was thrilled, noting, “The Chinese are portrayed admirably in the movie.”)

Rather less certain are the commercial prospects in China of “Enemy at the Gates.” Distrib UIP has confirmed Jean-Jacques Annaud’s WWII epic will be the first U.S. summer release on the mainland in mid-July. That’s right after the monthlong annual blackout when U.S. and other foreign films are banned while the citizenry celebrates the anniversary of the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party.