You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Black Coal’ Makes Mark Before Tribeca Outing

Art-house thriller falls between genres in native China

BEIJING – China’s Berlin Golden Bear winner “Black Coal, Thin Ice” has passed the symbolic RMB100 million ($16.2 million) landmark just three days ahead of its outing this week at the TriBeCa Film Festival.

The box office total, reached after 24 days on release, gives the film a commercial respectability that was far from obvious when it was launched.

China scarcely has an art-house circuit, though its commercial sector is booming to the point where some are beginning to worry about the bubble bursting. “Black Coal, Thin Ice,” directed by Diao Yinan, sits uneasily as an art-house form of thriller.

“The ‘bubble’ is a production bubble and it doesn’t affect our company,” said Dan Victor, principal of Boneyard Entertainment China, the U.S.-Chinese firm that backed “Black Coal” and which is looking at a slate of other Chines titles.

“It means that, just like in the U.S., the challenge isn’t making a movie. That has become easier and easier with new technology. The challenge is making a good movie and then getting your movie into theaters.

“In China, this is a bigger problem than the U.S. because a) there are fewer theaters; and b) there is no ancillary revenue so if it doesn’t get into theaters (and stay in theaters) you’re out of luck. What anyone will tell you who knows what they’re talking about is if you make top quality films, you will find distribution. But, from a responsible business standpoint you can’t rely on that.”

Popular on Variety

Victor’s answer to that is to work with a bigger Chinese partner, Jiangsu Omnijoi, which is the content spin-off from regional Jiangsu Broadcasting Corp.

“Having a partnership with a strong company with the ability to distribute and exhibit means that we can protect our downside. I think ‘BCTI’ is only the first glimpse of the potential of the BEC/Jiangsu Omnijoi relationship. I’m proud of the film, but it is also only the beginning,” said Victor.

If the genre is new by Chinese standards, foreign distributors have had less problem.

At the recent FilMart, sales agent, Fortissimo Films sold an all rights deal for Hong Kong/Macau to Edko, which will see the film released in HK in early May, a deal for Poland with Aurora Film, for Mexico with Alfhaville Cinema, for Portugal with Alambique Films, and with HBO for the Latin American regional Pay TV release in late 2015. Deals struck in Berlin included one with Memento Films Distribution for all rights in France, Megacom Films for Former Yugoslavia, Bulgarian Film Vision for Bulgaria and Irib for Iran.

More Film

  • Alexandre Desplat

    Alexandre Desplat Combines Mozart and Bowie for Greta Gerwig's 'Little Women' Score

    There have been multiple film and TV versions of “Little Women.” But composer Alexandre Desplat and writer-director Greta Gerwig had a non-traditional idea for Sony’s 2019 version: “We wanted the music to be a duet of Mozart and Bowie,” Desplat laughs. There are no rock music touches in the score, but there is a modern [...]

  • Clarence Thomas

    Film News Roundup: Clarence Thomas Documentary to Get Theatrical Release

    In today’s film news roundup, a Clarence Thomas documentary and “Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always” are getting theatrical releases, and Lionsgate is developing a Rabbids movie. RELEASE DATES Manifold Productions has slated “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words” to open in theaters nationwide on Jan. 31, Variety has learned exclusively. The documentary about the [...]

  • Danny Aiello Do the Right Thing

    Danny Aiello: Spike Lee, Mia Farrow, Cher and More Remember ‘Do the Right Thing’ Actor

    Following the news that character actor Danny Aiello died on Thursday night, friends and peers of the “Moonstruck” actor shared their remembrances via social media. Aiello — whose body of work included Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” “The Godfather Part II” and Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” music [...]

  • Willem Dafoe The Lighthouse

    Willem Dafoe on Early Film Roles, Working With Robert Eggers on 'The Lighthouse'

    A four-time Academy Award nominee, Willem Dafoe developed his cinematic charisma — seen in films like “The Florida Project” and “At Eternity’s Gate” — in his early career in theater. After studying drama at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Dafoe moved to New York in 1976 and joined what would eventually become The Wooster Group. His [...]

  • Theodore Shapiro Music Composer

    How Music Illustrates the Shifting Dynamics in 'Bombshell'

    What stands out about Theodore Shapiro’s score for “Bombshell” is that the music isn’t frantic despite being set in a fast-paced environment — Roger Ailes’ newsroom at Fox News. Instead, the score straddles two worlds: that of Ailes and that of the women who worked for him.  “[Director] Jay [Roach] and I talked about finding [...]

  • Just Mercy Movie

    How Period and Real-Life Subjects Informed Costume Designs for 'Just Mercy'

    When Francine Jamison-Tanchuck signed on as the costume designer for “Just Mercy,” the true story of defense attorney Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan) and his fight to overturn the murder conviction of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), she was drawn to the prospect of depicting real-life characters through her work.  “It can sometimes be more [...]

  • Avatar

    'Avatar' at 10: What Happened to the 3D Box Office Boom?

    Chris Aronson admits he was being bullish when he told his colleagues at 20th Century Fox that “Avatar” would gross $500 million at the domestic box office. This was back in 2009, before Marvel mania and Disney dominance made half-a-million-dollar earners commonplace. Up until that point, only “Titanic” and “The Dark Knight” had surpassed that [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content