Overseas Releases of Chinese Films to be Cancelled Following Virus Outbreak

The overseas release of Chinese films in the next weeks is certain to be affected by the cancellation of theatrical outings in mainland China as a response to the rampant spread of the coronavirus.

On Thursday, movie companies in China announced they would not go ahead with the release of seven major films at Chinese New Year, normally the busiest period in the cinema calendar.

Chinese regulations prevent a Chinese-produced film from being released outside mainland China in advance of a release within the country. There can be exceptions, such as those for major film festivals, but these need government approval.

Chinese rights holders also like to avoid international releases preceding their film’s outings in China. The chance of pirated recordings from the smaller overseas markets leaking back into massively larger mainland Chinese market is too great a risk.

Cancelled mainland Chinese outings will now have a domino effect on overseas releases of certain films.

Singapore distributor mm2 Entertainment announced that it has cancelled the release of “Detective Chinatown 3” and Jackie Chan-starring “Vanguard.” Other Singapore distributors such as Clover Films cancelled the release of “The Rescue,” while Encore called off the outing for animation “Jiang Ziya.”

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Releases of “The Rescue” and “Detective Chinatown 3” in Malaysia were also called off by mm2. Release of “Vanguard” in Malaysia was halted by GSC.

“We called off the releases (in Singapore) simply because the titles shifted date in China, and the producers demanded, as per contract, that we do not release earlier than China,” Lim Teck, founder of Clover Films told Variety.

“In light of the novel coronavirus outbreak, we have just received the news that both movies will be put on hold until further notice,” said mm2.

Overseas distributors were informed of the Chinese mainland cancellations at 11am local time on Thursday. No new dates have been supplied.

Warner Bros. Pictures had planned on a wide specialty release of Wanda Pictures’ “Detective Chinatown 3” in North America. It announced outings in more than 150 theaters and limited IMAX engagements in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Toronto and Vancouver. Warner has not yet announced any cancellation plans.

CMC Pictures had planned on a similarly large North American outing for $90 million-budget action adventure film “The Rescue,” starting on Jan. 24. It had booked theaters in 67 U.S. cities and 18 Canadian markets.

“Due to the current public health situation in China, CMC Pictures has made the decision to postpone the theatrical release of ‘The Rescue’ — both in China and internationally — until further notice. The health and safety of the public is of the utmost importance to us and we want to do our part in reducing any potential exposure during such a critical period,” said CMC in a statement emailed to Variety. 

“Leap,” the highly anticipated sports action film by Peter Chan about the Chinese women’s volleyball team, and comedy franchise film “Lost in Russia” were not licensed to local distributors in Southeast Asia.

The cancellation of the mainland films could work to the advantage of other Chinese New Year titles. The Singapore releases of Hong Kong-made “Enter The Far Dragon,” “All’s Well 2020” and “The Grand Grandmaster” are all releasing as normal. Mm2 said that it will bring forward the release of “A Moment of Happiness,” a Malaysian-made, Chinese-language comedy.

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