Chinese war action film “The Eight Hundred” will open in theaters in North America, Australia and New Zealand at the end of the month, a week after it becomes the biggest local film this year to open in Chinese cinemas..
Handled by Huayi Bros., the controversial film will release in China on Aug. 21. Overseas, CMC Pictures has set Aug. 28 as the date for an outing in English-language markets.
Fixing the date was a delicate balance. It has become common practise in recent years for commercial Chinese films to aim for day-and-date releases that are coordinated with the mainland Chinese outing.
That approach not only minimizes piracy, but also allows the overseas distributor to capitalize as much as possible on the Chinese marketing efforts, and the assumption that Chinese diaspora audiences are in touch with Chinese social media. A long delay potentially risks the chance that North American-based Chinese diaspora audiences would choose to watch the film on Chinese streaming platforms instead.
CMC says it is still trying to build out its release pattern. Key cities in North America, notably New York and Los Angeles, are still closed due to coronavirus control restrictions. The same is true in Victoria State and Australia’s second most populous city Melbourne.
But in Canada, Australia and New Zealand “The Eight Hundred” has the advantage of coming after Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” which will be the first major Hollywood movie into theaters in several months and act as an ice breaker. That strategy does not hold up in the U.S., where “Tenet” is scheduled for Sept. 4.
Until Tuesday, when four new cases were uncovered in Auckland, New Zealand had gone over 100 days without a locally transmitted COVID-19 case, and most cinemas had reopened. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered a level 2 alert for most of the country, meaning that indoor gatherings must be limited to 100 people. For Auckland, the return to a level 3 alert means that cinemas re-closed from noon on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020.
Local crime drama, “This Town” topped the box office over the past weekend with over NZ$200,000 earned from 114 screen release by Madman Entertainment. The film had shot in Hawkes Bay from a screenplay by David White and Henry Feltham, directed by White and produced by Kelly Martin, Aaron Watson and White.
The $80 million “Eight Hundred” was produced by Huayi Brothers and is directed by Guan Hu (Mister Six”). It was also the first Chinese film to be entirely shot with Imax cameras.
Its story centers on the sacrifices made a ragtag group of Chinese soldiers in 1937 Shanghai as imperial Japanese troops advanced. Their operations were once praised by Mao Zedong himself as a “classic example of national revolution.” But its Shanghai Film Festival premiere last June was halted at the last minute, and its July commercial outing cancelled, after intervention by a group of Communist Party scholars and experts. They said that the film had mis-stepped in its portrayal of the rival Kuomintang Party, which ruled China until it lost the civil war against the Communists in 1949 and fled to Taiwan.
The Chinese film industry has been harder hit by the COVID-19 fallout than most other business sectors. Cinemas were closed from Jan. 23 until July 20, and some are still only now reopening their doors. To date most films released in Chinese theaters have been re-releases and a mix of small-scale local and international titles. Nationwide box office over the past weekend was flat at an aggregate $17 million.