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‘Interstellar,’ ‘Jojo Rabbit,’ ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘1917’ and ‘Bad Boys for Life’ Set China Release Dates

1917 Movie
Courtesy of Universal/François Duhamel

UPDATED: Five more Hollywood titles — new releases “1917, “Jojo Rabbit,” and “Bad Boys For Life,” and re-releases “Interstellar and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” —  announced Thursday that they are heading to the big screen in China now that cinemas in the Middle Kingdom are kicking back into gear.

On Friday afternoon, images began circulating online of the Chinese poster for Disney’s “Ford v Ferrari.” The film which has not previously had a mainland Chinese release is set for an Aug. 7 outing, according to the promotional material.

Two of them clock in at over two and a half hours, showing that earlier National Film Bureau guidelines requesting that individual screenings not exceed a two-hour time limit will either soon be lifted or function merely as recommendations.

It was originally expected that the film length limit would be lifted in two or three weeks, and it is possible that the previous seat limitations will raised 50%” of max capacity, the director of Shandong Qina Film Management Li Bin told the state-backed 1905 Film online news portal. 

The first up of the newly announced titles is “Jojo Rabbit,” which will screen from July 31. It was previously approved for a post-Oscars Feb. 12 release via the country’s National Arthouse Alliance of Cinemas, but was pushed back when theaters shut in late January due to COVID.

It will go up against the China premiere of “Sonic the Hedgehog,” set to debut the same day, and a re-release of Disney’s 2015 animation “Big Hero 6.”

A re-release of Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” is prepared, unusually, to release two days later on Sunday, Aug. 2. Popular with Chinese fans, it grossed $122 million in the mainland in 2014. This is a spot of good news for Nolan, whose hotly anticipated new sci-fi thriller “Tenet” just announced Monday that it will be indefinitely postponing its originally scheduled July 17 release, after two separate push-backs of its dates.  

Next up is Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning war epic “1917,” a new studio title that is set to hit Aug. 7, and is currently the only film scheduled to debut that weekend. The movie’s China premiere was previously set for Feb. 21.

August 14 will mark the debut of a 3D, 4K restoration of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” intended to mark the 20th anniversary of the franchise. In a Chinese statement, Warner Brothers feted by saying: “We invite you to re-experience the infinite magic of Hogwarts and bizarre and motley Wizarding World.”

That film and the seven others in the series anchor an eclectic line-up at the Shanghai Int. Film Festival, where they are set to screen sequentially over the course of the event’s July 25 to Aug. 2 run, giving audiences an early preview.  

“Harry Potter” will go up against the Will Smith-starring “Bad Boys For Life,” which will also premiere Aug. 14. and was previously approved for China back in January. It released in the U.S. on Jan. 17, and has grossed $419 million so far worldwide, with $204 million of that coming from the States.

So far, the only other film of note scheduled to debut that weekend is a local rom-com called “A Road to Spring.”

A portion of China’s cinemas began to reopen across the country in regions deemed at “low risk” for the coronavirus on Monday. Authorities on Tuesday said that Beijing’s cinemas may reopen from this Friday, giving them just days to scramble to prepare.

Approximately 20% of Chinese cinemas in areas at low risk for COVID-19 have reopened as of Thursday, local authorities said, amounting to around 2,400 cinemas in total.

Going into the weekend, the top film at the box office in China is currently local crime thriller “Sheep Without a Shepherd,” now in its third run in cinemas since its December premiere. Takings, however, have been minimal, as the film has earned just $432,000 nationwide as of Thursday evening local time.

In second place has been “Coco,” which has earned $148,000 since Monday, followed by local arthouse film “A First Farewell” — one of the few new releases available at the moment — with $61,000 and Will Smith-starring “The Pursuit of Happyness” with $49,000.

A dozen titles are set to release this Friday. Most notably, “Dolittle” and “Bloodshot” will greet Chinese audiences for the first time. Its competitors are all re-releases, including foreign films “Capernaum,” “Zootopia,” and “A Dog’s Journey,” as well as local blockbusters “Operation Red Sea” and “Operation Mekong” from helmer Dante Lam, Tsui Hark’s “The Taking of Tiger Mountain,” and Jeffrey Lau’s “A Chinese Odyssey Part One and Two,” starring Stephen Chow.