Top China Exec Talks 2020 Theatrical Lineup, Including Two From Zhang Yimou

Popular on Variety

Chinese moviegoers can expect to see Dante Lam’s “The Rescue,” Jackie Chan film “Vanguard” and two titles involving helmer Zhang Yimou this year, says a top Chinese distribution executive. He also confirmed National Day releases for two propaganda films — the first concrete information on upcoming theatrical debuts for new titles in months.

China’s cinemas shuttered in late January to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. A bevy of blockbusters expecting to see record box office returns over the Lunar New Year holiday were pulled at the eleventh hour and have not been given new release dates.

But new information from Fu Ruoqing, chairman of major state-owned distributor Huaxia, says audiences will be able to catch the delayed Chinese New Year films “The Rescue,” Dante’s epic actioner about the Chinese coast guard, and Stanley Tong’s “Vanguard” in the second half of 2020, as well as Zhang’s new spy thriller “Impasse.”

“There will definitely be some large-scale movies released during the summer period, and the National Day release window will exhibit the same surge as last year,” he said in a video interview with a state broadcaster. 

Although China’s top administrative body has recently given cinemas the green light to reopen, no orders to actually do so have been issued, with insiders now predicting that theaters will not resume operations until early June. No specific release dates have been issued yet. 

Beyond “Impasse,” Zhang, the celebrated helmer of “Shadow” and “Red Sorghum,” will also be executive producing a new propaganda film backed by the faltering studio Beijing Culture, which will debut during China’s National Day holiday on Oct. 1, Fu said.

The film, whose Chinese title roughly translates to “Me and My Hometown,” is modeled on last year’s National Day propaganda juggernaut “My People, My Country.” Authorities let that title linger in theaters long enough to become China’s eighth-highest grossing film of all time with a box office gross of $446 million, above “Dying to Survive.”

Zhang Yibai (“Fleet of Time”) is listed as the new film’s “executive planner” and Ning Hao (“Crazy Alien,” “Breakup Buddies”) as executive director. Both directed shorts included in “My People, My Country” as well.

“Me and My Hometown” will consist of five shorts helmed by a who’s who of China’s most bankable directors. Ning, Xu Zheng (“Lost in Russia”), and Chen Sicheng (“Detective Chinatown 3”) will direct their own, while Yan Fei and Peng Damo, the duo who co-directed box office hit “Hello Mr. Billionaire,” will team up for one, and Deng Chao (“Shadow”) and Yu Baimei, who co-directed rom-com “The Breakup Guru,” for another.

It has begun shooting this month. Chinese reports note that Chen arrived in the southwestern province of Guizhou on Monday with his film crew, along with actor Dong Zijian (“Mountains May Depart”), and “Detective Chinatown 3” A-listers Liu Haoran and Wang Baoqiang.

“This film is a relaxing, joyful, emotional comedy,” said Fu, emphasizing that its release will not be delayed by the coronavirus. He said that another film, whose name roughly translates to “Almost Home,” is also set to debut on National Day.

There remains no indication of when audiences might be able to catch a glimpse of “One Second,” Zhang’s Cultural Revolution-set ode to cinema that was abruptly pulled by censors from the Berlin International Film Festival in 2019.