They are expected to be made available to cinemas from Thursday, March 26 up until the end of June, according to Chinese reports and a screenshot of an exhibitor’s internal lineup.
Contacted by Variety, sources close to Disney in Asia said the studio is not involved in the re-releases, and that these are matters decided on by China Film.
More than 500 Chinese cinemas across the country have already reopened their doors so far, although takings have so far been minimal. Larger numbers of theaters could re-open in the next month as China re-emerges from the various national and state restrictions on movement — and it is now up to distributors to ensure that cinemas have product capable of reeling in enough viewers to make it worth the health and financial risk of remaining open.
A growing list of titles soon to be available to cinemas has been emerging piecemeal.
The selection now also include Disney’s “Call of the Wild” and Oscar-winner “Jojo Rabbit,” which was pulled from its initial February release date, which are set to reach the specialty circuit of the National Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas on April 4, according to 1905.com, the website of state-owned broadcaster China Movie Channel.
A 3D, 4K restoration of Warner Bros’ “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was the most high-profile, confirmed addition and the first Hollywood studio title that would previously have been released as a revenue-sharing quota import. It is listed on ticketing apps as debuting April 30, but other sources show different dates. Chinese reports say that the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is also likely to soon hit theaters.
Other U.S. films that appear to be being lined up include Oscar-winning “Green Book,” which grossed $71 million in China, Amblin Partners’ Dennis Quaid-starring “A Dog’s Purpose” and its sequel, “A Dog’s Journey,” which earned $88.2 million and $29 million in the country, respectively, all of which count Chinese tech giant Alibaba as a partner or investor.
Re-releasing well-loved older titles minimizes financial risk and does not require audiences to experiment with untried content. With the Chinese public still uncertain about whether and when to venture back into crowded places such as cinemas, none of the Chinese-made tentpole movies which had their planned Chinese New Year releases are yet willing to commit to a post-virus release date.
To overcome the current dearth of content, China Film Group — the government-backed giant that controls distribution of all revenue-sharing Hollywood movies, and also dominates physical distribution in the Middle Kingdom — is preparing a slew of other older Chinese blockbusters.
Last week, it contacted exhibitors with a list of five titles that it wants to re-release in a “public service model” where rights holders forgo their cut of the box office and all profits go directly to cinemas. These included one foreign film, Lebanese director Nadine Labaki’s 2018 Cannes Jury Prize-winner “Capernaum,” and four Chinese blockbusters: Peter Peter Chan’s 2013 “American Dreams in China,” 2015’s “Wolf Totem,” directed by France’s Jean-Jacques Annaud, and two of the country’s highest grossing films of all time, the patriotic titles “Wolf Warrior 2” and sci-fi adventure “The Wandering Earth.” These will be available to cinemas until end of May.
An internal list of other releases planned via China Film or its similarly government-run counterpart Huaxia names ten other titles set to hit screens again in the next day or so.
On Wednesday, March 25, the following Chinese films were re-released: animations “Nezha” (China’s second highest grossing film of all time), “Big Fish and Begonia,” and “White Snake”; Dante Lam’s two patriotic epics “Operation Mekong” and “Operation Red Sea”; rom-com “How Long Will I Love You”; fantasy franchise film “Mojin: the Lost Legend,” and “Go Away, Mr. Tumor,” which Beijing picked as its 2015 submission to the Oscars.
On Thursday, March 26, Jackie Chan’s “CZ12” and Chinese fantasy blockbuster “Monster Hunt” will be released to cinemas and remain available until end of May.
Chinese reports speculate that “Avatar,” “Interstellar” and “Inception” are among other Hollywood titles that could soon hit re-opening cinemas, but they have yet to be confirmed.