×

Second Huayi-Invested Film Is Canceled as Company’s Losses Mount

Still reeling from the cancellation of the theatrical release of its blockbuster “The Eight Hundred,” production studio Huayi Brothers has been hit with another setback: the comedy “The Last Wish,” which Huayi has invested in, has also been quietly pulled from China’s summer lineup. Both films have fallen afoul of China’s increasingly heavy-handed censors.

The unwelcome development comes as Huayi has announced that it expects losses of more than $48 million in the first half of 2019. That will pile onto a reported net loss of RMB1.09 billion (about $160 million) last year, creating a difficult hole for the company to climb out of without a new box-office hit.

Directed by Tian Yusheng, the writer-director of the bankable “The Ex-File” romcom series, “The Last Wish” stars Peng Yuchang (“An Elephant Sitting Still”) and Taiwanese actor Darren Wang in a buddy comedy about a young man with a terminal disease who hopes to lose his virginity before he dies. Hengye Pictures, China Film, Wanda Pictures, New Saint, Perfect Sky, Alibaba Pictures, and Wishart are also listed alongside Huayi as producers. 

Originally scheduled for release this Thursday, the comedy first ran into trouble late last month when censors took issue with its Chinese name. The original Mandarin title was “A Great Wish,” but Variety has learned that censors took issue with the adjective “great,” or “weida,” which authorities feel ought to be reserved to describe the country’s leaders and important matters of state. A raucous comedy about searching for sex apparently made too light of the term. The Chinese title was changed to “A Tiny Little Wish.”

On July 5, the production team announced that, “due to production reasons, the film will be unable to hit theaters on July 18. Its specific release date will be set soon.” There have been no further details since.

It is one of at least four films that have been yanked from China’s summer theatrical schedule, a time when authorities typically protect domestic content by blocking the release of foreign imports. Others are Huayi’s “The Eight Hundred,” which was withdrawn at the last minute as the opening film of the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival; Hong Kong director Derek Tsang’s “Better Days”; and Xu Haofeng’s martial arts film, “The Hidden Sword.”

Huayi announced over the weekend that it predicts losses of $47.3 million to $48 million (RMB325 million to 330 million) in the first half of the year. During the same period of 2018, it saw profits of $40.3 million (RMB277 million). It attributed the vast swing to a much weaker theatrical lineup. Whereas in the same reporting period last year, Huayi was bolstered by Feng Xiaogang’s “Youth,” which grossed more than $200 million, and the romantic comedy “The Ex-File 3: Return of the Exes,” which earned $282 million, it was involved with two flops in the first half of 2019. The first, “Mojin: The Worm Valley,” brought in just $22 million, while the second, the Thai film “Brother of the Year,” made just $247,000.

A new comedy, “Destinies,” is scheduled to hit theaters next week. Further in the future, there will be a new film from Feng, whose title roughly translates as “Only Yun Knows,” and Lu Chuan’s “Bureau 749,” which have both entered post-production. “Onmyoji,” a film adapted from the eponymous popular cellphone game, is also in the works.

In January, it was announced that Alibaba Pictures Group was lending $103 million to Huayi as part of Alibaba’s effort to be more involved in movie releases during lucrative Chinese holiday periods. The five-year loan is to be used to help cover Huayi’s operating costs and as working capital.

Huayi, which is listed on the Shenzhen exchange, reached RMB5.85 a share – its highest stock price since May – on June 13, the day the cancellation of “The Eight Hundred” Shanghai premiere was announced. It has fallen 19% since then, closing at RMB4.73 on Monday.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • CBS HEADQUARTERS

    CBS-Viacom Merger Details Revealed, Shares to Trade on Nasdaq

    Negotiations between CBS and Viacom went down to the wire on the day the long-gestating transaction was finally sealed on Aug. 13. CBS Corp. and Viacom revealed the timeline of the merger talks in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Thursday that runs more than 650 pages. Also Thursday, CBS and Viacom said the shares [...]

  • The Jesus Rolls

    Rome Film Review: 'The Jesus Rolls'

    The Jesus lives! The oddball bowling obsessive immortalized by John Turturro in “The Big Lebowski” resurfaces two decades later in “The Jesus Rolls,” a road movie every bit as eccentric as the character he played in the 1998 cult favorite. In a way, the “Lebowski” connection does a disservice to Turturro’s film — an in-spirit [...]

  • Abominable

    Malaysia Orders Cuts to 'Abominable' Over Controversial Map Scene

    Malaysia has ordered cuts to the U.S.-Chinese animated feature “Abominable,” which includes a scene involving a map that portrays China’s contested territorial claims in the South China Sea. The map scene has already caused the film to be banned in Vietnam. The Philippines’ foreign minister, Teodoro Locsin, called this week for “Abominable” to be boycotted, [...]

  • Kung Fu Panda 3

    Universal's Beijing Resort to Partner With Alibaba on Digitization

    Amid fierce controversy about the leverage China has over U.S. entertainment firms with significant mainland operations, Universal Beijing Resort and Alibaba announced a strategic partnership Thursday to digitize the forthcoming theme park in China’s capital. Facial recognition and the use of big data will be the norm at the new resort, which will use an [...]

  • They Shall Not Grow Old restoration

    Peter Jackson Documentary 'They Shall Not Grow Old' Nabs Limited China Release

    The Peter Jackson produced and directed World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” will hit Chinese theaters on November 11. Though it will roll out nationwide, it will do so via the China’s National Arthouse Alliance, which has limited screens. The 2018 documentary puts together interviews with WWI veterans and more than 100-year-old [...]

  • Zombieland Double Tap

    'Zombieland: Double Tap' Hopes to Recapture Raunchy Zombie Magic, 10 Years Later

    Audiences may have a few questions about the sequel to 2009’s hit “Zombieland,” which opens Friday. Why did it take 10 years to make a second one, after the first grossed $102.4 million worldwide on a $23 million budget, making it the third-biggest zombie movie of all time (second-biggest if you don’t count “Hotel Transylvania,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content