Prompted to change strategy by the coronavirus outbreak, which has shuttered cinemas across China since late January, “Knockout” joins a growing list of films that are skipping theatrical outings and will premiere online instead.
IQIYI said that the Roy Chow-directed tale will be available from April 20 as a pay-per-view offering. The company’s VIP subscribers can access it at a discount.
At the end of February, iQIYI said that it had 106.9 million subscribers, of which 98.9% were paying subscribers.
Starring mainland singer-actor Han Geng (“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “The Taking of Tiger Mountain”) the films is the desperate comeback story of a boxer who on release from jail discovers that he has become a widower and single parent. His problems only get worse, when his young daughter is diagnosed with leukaemia, and to pay for her treatment he makes a return to the ring, age 36.
The streaming release is limited to mainland China only. It is currently unclear whether iQIYI will attempt to release it in the South East Asian territories, where its app is now available. International rights to the movie are represented by Hong Kong’s Media Asia Group.
Mainland Chinese theaters were abruptly shuttered on the eve of the Chinese New Year holidays in late January, disrupting the release of half a dozen of the year’s most anticipated Chinese tentpole movies. As cinema closures have extended to nearly three months, and no re-opening date has been set, China’s releasing calendar has been torn up.
One of the first films to change approach was Chinese New Year comedy “Lost in Russia”. IQIYI also picked up “Enter The Fat Dragon,” which enjoyed theatrical release in Chinese-speaking parts of Asia from Jan. 23, and in North America on Feb. 14, but skipped Chinese cinemas altogether.
IQIYI was recently accused by U.S. investment company Wolfpack Research of inflating its advertising and subscription revenue data. The NASDAQ-listed company refutes the allegations.