The news comes as China’s cinemas have yet to offer a timeline for reopening despite nearly six months of closures.
The film will stream via iQiyi in China on July 24. It will debut on Netflix, which is blocked in China, for all the other territories the platform operates in on July 25, the company confirmed Wednesday to Variety.
Made on a budget of around $43 million (RMB300 million) and comprised of 80% special effects, “Double World” will be the fifth most expensive new movie to ever premiere on iQiyi’s premium video on demand (PVOD) service, which launched in January as coronavirus took off.
Shifting to an online release “will provide some relief to the struggling production company in the nick of time, and it will also help lead to innovations and changes within the industry,” “Double World” producers said in a statement, according to the state-run news portal China Internet Information Center.
As devastating cinema closures stretch on, a growing list of Chinese films have decided to put aside their box office dreams in favor of an online debut.
Xu Zheng’s “Lost in Russia” was the first to jump the theatrical ship in January, with Bytedance nabbing rights for $91 million (RMB 630 million). The Donnie Yen-starring martial arts comedy “Enter the Fat Dragon,” sports drama “Knockout,” female-helmed arthouse title “Spring Tide,” and Noah Baumbach’s Oscar-winner “Marriage Story” have all gone straight-to-streaming via iQiyi’s PVOD platform since.
“Double World” is a filmic adaptation of a popular online MMORPG game of the same name with more than 300 million players, developed by Giant Network. It is co-produced by Giant’s film production arm Giant Pictures, Filmko Entertainment, and Alibaba Pictures.
The film is directed by Hong Kong’s Teddy Chan (“Bodyguards and Assassins”) and stars Toronto-born pop singer Henry Lau (“A Dog’s Journey”) and Taiwanese-American Peter Ho. It tells the story of a fictional world made up of ten states in which a warlord organizes a competition to recruit the strongest warriors, and a brave young villager responds to the call.
Pre-sale tickets to view the film on iQiyi’s PVOD will become available on July 17.
“This is a timely release as 2020 celebrates the 15th anniversary of the game. The Internet provides a fantastic avenue for ‘Double World,’ an adaption of an online game, to reach audiences during this special period,” said Giant Pictures’ Zhang Amu, adding that iQiyi’s partnership model “provides us with a way to reach users and recoup our investment.”
There is not yet any clear, official indication of when Chinese cinemas will reopen, although some unconfirmed rumors have said they may do so as soon as next Monday.