‘Yesterday’ Gets China Theatrical Release (EXCLUSIVE)

Danny Boyle’s Beatles-nostalgia film “Yesterday” has secured a theatrical release date in mainland China.

The film, which premiered at the Tribeca festival in May, is a musical fairy tale about a world without the Fab Four, and an indie rocker who brings them back.

Boyle was previously head of the competition jury at the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2009.

Yesterday’ will reach Chinese cinemas on Aug. 16, more than six weeks after its commercial rollout starts in many territories, beginning next week. But it comes at the tail end of dates which would normally be considered part of China’s unofficial annual summer blackout period, in which new releases are limited to Chinese-language pictures.

This year, however, many of the usual assumptions about film releases in China have been thrown out of the window. That is because the cumulative box office so far in 2019 is running about 2% below last year’s performance, despite the opening of more than 9,000 new screens in 2018.

Reasons for the under-performance appear to include a smaller-than-normal supply of strong local Chinese films, and growing competition from streaming platforms, which now count more than 200 million in paying subscriptions.

At the beginning of the year, it was expected that foreign films would be imported in greater number, or given wider releases this year, in order to compensate for the Chinese film slowdown and to keep box office on a policy-mandated growth track.

That assumption in turn has been challenged in recent weeks, as multiple sources suggested that Chinese authorities are barring non-studio American content as part of the trade war between China and the U.S. While “Yesterday” is distributed in most territories by Universal Pictures, Variety understands that Chinese authorities are considering it as British rather than Hollywood content.

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