China turns on ‘Matrix’ day-and-date release

First U.S. pic to see simultaneous release in mainland

SYDNEY– The unique synchronized global release of “The Matrix Revolutions” on Nov. 5 will include the world’s most populous market: mainland China.

It’s the first time a U.S. pic has been approved for simultaneous (or conventional day-and-date) release in China.

In a ground-breaking agreement with China’s Film Bureau, the Wachowski brothers’ epic will launch at 10 p.m. Beijing time on 100 subtitled prints in major cities.

The bow ties in with pic’s launches around the globe: 6 a.m. in L.A., 9 a.m. in New York, 2 p.m. in London, 5 p.m. in Moscow, 11 p.m. in Tokyo, etc. Dubbed versions of the pic will go out in China on 130 prints the following week.

Execs at Warner Bros. spent months negotiating the release with Chinese authorities and figuring out the logistics. “The censorship process and technical delivery timeline had to be accelerated,” said Veronika Kwan-Rubinek, distrib prexy of Warner Pictures Intl.

“The Matrix Reloaded,” released in the U.S. in May, did not bow in China until July 17, giving pirates time to exploit the title and limiting its theatrical potential: It grossed a modest $5 million.

When reports surfaced in August about the prospect of “Revolutions” opening day-and-date in China, a China Film Group exec said, “It has always been possible. It’s only that we’ve never found a proper picture, as lots of elements are involved.”

“Revolutions” will be handled jointly by China’s only authorized distribs of imported films: the CFG’s distrib arm and Hua Xia Film Distribution Co. Launch of Hua Xia ended the CFG’s distrib monopoly, in line with an undertaking by Beijing to liberalize its highly regulated film market.

“Turn Left, Turn Right,” WB’s maiden Chinese-lingo production, which bowed Oct. 24 in China, was the first joint release for China Film and Hua Xia.