Huayi Brothers’ stock fell by more than 8% on Wednesday, the day after the veteran Chinese studio announced that its new war epic, “The Eight Hundred,” will not hit Chinese theaters as scheduled next week.
Shares dropped from RMB5.48 to RMB5.02 overnight after Huayi said Tuesday that its summer blockbuster’s theatrical debut would be indefinitely postponed from its July 5 release date. The company provided no detailed reason but said that the decision had been made “after consultation between the production team and other entities.”
A tale of Chinese bravery against Japanese imperialism, “The Eight Hundred” was also yanked at the last minute from its prominent opening-night slot at the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival earlier this month. The withdrawal from the festival and from general release is likely to be due to Chinese government censors, who have been causing problems for a number of domestic films recently.
Huayi’s share price had climbed to RMB5.85, its highest point since May, on June 13, the day before “The Eight Hundred” was pulled from the Shanghai festival. The price then slid by more than 8% to RMB5.35 by June 17. Wednesday’s closing price of RMB5.02 is more than 14% down from the June 13 high.
The film had been scheduled for a day-and-date July 5 U.S. release, which will now likely have to be pushed back as well. A spokesman told Variety on Tuesday that the company hopes to make necessary changes to the film and release it later this year.
The development is a huge blow to Huayi, one of China’s most established private-sector production companies, which has already been struggling this past year and racked up losses of $158 million. The company invested around $80 million in “The Eight Hundred,” and was expecting to see as much as $436 million (RMB3 billion) in box office receipts, Chinese sources said.
According to the company’s 2018 annual report, Huayi appears to have little in its upcoming lineup that could make up for the cancellation of “The Eight Hundred.” Just one of its titles has hit theaters so far this year, a Thai film called “Brother of the Year,” which made only $247,000. Next up is the youth drama “The Last Wish,” set for release July 18 despite a run-in with the censors – who changed its Chinese title from “A Mighty Wish” to “A Tiny Wish” – and “Destinies,” helmed by newcomer Zhang Pu. In 2020, Huayi is scheduled to have “The Mermaid 2,” sequel to the 2016 hit comedy that grossed more than $490 million.
On May 31, Huayi announced that its general manager, Qin Kaiyu, had resigned due to “personal reasons.”