“Outcast,” the Chinese-made Nicolas Cage-starring period action movie, is to get a near simultaneous release in the world’s two biggest theatrical markets in early 2015 – some four months after its mainland China outing was thwarted.
The film, directed by former stunt and action co-ordinator Nick Powell, will be released in China in January next year and in North America in early Feb.
Entertainment One is in final negotiations to acquire the rights and release through Phase 4, the distributor it bought in June. Rights in North America are owned by the film’s principal backer China’s Yunnan Film Group and are represented by Mark Canton’s Atmosphere Entertainment. Atmosphere sources told Variety that eOne is eyeing a Feb. 6 outing.
“Outcast” was previously on course to have been released in China on Friday, Sept. 26, but in the evening of Sept. 25 it was mysteriously withdrawn from release by Yunnan Film Group.
The relaunch and its synchronized American outing were announced Monday in Los Angeles, by La Peikang, chairman of China Film Company, and Zhang Xun, head of China Film Coproduction Corporation. The film, which is largely in English and Mandarin, is an official three-way co-production between China, France and Canada.
Reasons for the abrupt halt in September remain steeped in mystery and speculation. While some sources have suggested that Yunnan Film Group had financial difficulties, others said that the film had not been able to book the number of screens that Yunnan Film Group wanted. Other commentary suggested that Chinese censors had reconsidered their initial approval because of the picture’s high body count and graphic 3D battle images.
Censorship seemed a plausible explanation following the earlier example of the temporary halting of Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” in early 2013. But a screening of “Outcast” at the Paramount Theater, carried a pre-credits approval certificate from China’s State General Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, and a title card from state-owned Huaxia Distribution.
“We have never been given a full explanation for the problems. But it is clear that Yunnan Film Group still has great confidence in the movie,” Bolt told Variety. “They had final cut and paid attention to details that would make the film right for Chinese audiences. They also bought out the North American rights, which shows their faith here too.”
In all other markets, outside China and North America, rights sales were handled by LA- and Sydney-based Arclight.
The new dates will likely trigger a round of rescheduling in other markets, especially in Asia, where several territories including Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, were scheduled for day-and-date releases linked to the Chinese launch. Late January falls between the two busiest theatrical peaks of the year in China: December and Chinese New Year, which in 2015 starts on Feb. 19.