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China distrib roars

First film will be earthquake drama 'Aftershock'

Exhib AMC has pacted with producer Jiang Yanming’s new distrib, China Lion, to open more Chinese pics in North America, broadening the market for the films beyond the traditional arthouse niche.

AMC’s first presentation will be Feng Xiaogang’s earthquake drama “Aftershock,” the most successful movie in China this year and its entrant in the foreign language category of the Oscars.

It will play from Oct. 29 on 23 screens in key markets with a large Chinese demographic — New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Boston; Seattle; Toronto and Ottawa.

After that, China Lion will supply 12-15 films per year exclusively to AMC in the U.S. and Canada. In most cases, the films will release day-and-date with China.

Chinese movies often show on less than 100 screens, with only Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” registering around 2,000 screens.

The success AMC has had with Bollywood movies has driven its efforts to do more to promote Chinese pics, as the Chinese diaspora in the U.S. is bigger than the Indian overseas community.

“With the huge Chinese and wider Asian audience in the U.S. and Canada we have again become the leader in providing a diverse range of cinema experience at AMC,” programming prexy Robert J. Lenihan said.

Jiang said, “For me, the main thing is to boost the number of day-and-date releases for Chinese films in the North American market and increase the number of screens showing Chinese movies.”

One of these day-and-date releases will be Feng’s “If You Are the One 2,” a sequel to his earlier hit, due out Dec. 22.

Jiang is in talks with the China Film Group, Huayi Bros., Shanghai Film Group and Enlight Media among others about longer-term cooperation to help China Lion get distribution in North America. The focus is on big commercial movies as well as movies about Chinese culture and history.

Other releases are being lined up for the rest of this year and early 2011, with China Lion expecting to announce further acquisitions at the American Film Market in early November.

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