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Movie guide for Spring Festival 2018

Movie guide for Spring Festival 2018

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Movie guide for Spring Festival 2018
The lucrative Spring Festival holiday will see a colossal showdown between this year’s tentpole films, including fantasy epic “The Monkey King 3,” military-action film “Operation Red Sea,” detective comedy “Detective Chinatown 2” and the sequel to one of the highest-grossing Chinese films “Monster Hunt,” as well as the animated feature “Boonie Bears: The Big Shrink” and comedy “The Faces of My Gene.”

This year’s Spring Festival season will no doubt break a series of Chinese box office records, as “Monster Hunt 2” has already earned more than 200 million yuan (US$31.55 million) in presales, the highest presales achievement ever. Analysts believe the first day of Lunar New Year could witness total film sales breaking the 1 billion yuan (US$157.8 million) mark in a single day.

But due to high production costs, the producers of potential blockbusters still face high risks. They have to attain combined sales of 7 billion yuan (US$1.11 billion) to ensure they can earn back their investment. For example, “Monster Hunt 2” was reportedly made with a 900 million yuan (US$142.95 million) budget, while “The Monkey King 3” reportedly cost 550 million yuan (US$87.34 million).

There are also some differences this year compared to previous years. The industry now prohibits distributors from exploitive measures such as selling extremely cheap movie tickets, which would encourage unfair competition and an unhealthy market. In addition, the two biggest films “Monster Hunt 2” and “Detective Chinatown 2” will not be released with 3D versions, which usually have higher ticket prices, due to the fading enthusiasm for the 3D format around the world.

Which film will eventually be the winner of the Spring Festival holiday remains to be seen. The first three days of sales will likely rely on marketing and promotion, but sales during the rest of the holiday will depend on word of mouth and the films’ quality.

“The Faces of My Gene”

The film is the directorial debut of comedian Guo Degang, who boasted that his artistic skills can still work in the film field.

Due to his good relationship with the showbiz community, Guo was able to summon 33 of the biggest stars to take part in his film either as cast members or by making cameos, including Yue Yunpeng, Wu Jing, Wang Baoqiang, Da Peng, Li Chen and Lin Chi-ling.

The film tells the story of an ugly man who wants to change his fate by changing his genes. In order to look better and have a better life in the present, he travels back to ancient time to alter the marriages of his ancestors.

The film is the least anticipated of the season, but Guo said he expected it to be a dark horse. However, the comedian also admitted at the film’s premiere that this year’s Spring Festival film rivalry will be quite “bloody.”

“Boonie Bears: The Big Shrink”

This one is for children. “Boonie Bears,” one of China’s most successful animation franchises, will release its fifth installment, directed by Ding Liang and Lin Huida.

The TV series “Boonie Bears” has been running on the country’s largest broadcaster, China Central Television, since 2012. It has become one of the highest-rated children’s shows in the country and has been developed into a popular franchise comprising the nine-season series, five movies and three stage shows. It’s expected that movie theaters will be packed with children and parents waiting to see the bears they grew up with.

The new film opens with Vick, the main human character, receiving an unexpected visit from his father, who appears on the big screen for the first time. The story is about the father’s desire to compensate for his poor parenting in the past. But despite his best intentions, a series of misunderstandings ruin his relationship with Vick, who then embarks on a new adventure with the two bear characters after they are shrunk by a machine.

Box office statistics indicate the previous four movies have grossed 1.4 billion yuan (US$221.5 million) in total. The fifth installment has begun to show its own power and popularity; it has already made 66.66 million yuan (US$10.5 million) in limited advance screenings and presales before its official opening on Lunar New Year’s Day.

“Boonie Bears: The Big Shrink” will later expand into overseas markets with releases in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and other countries after the Spring Festival holiday. American actress Beth Behrs (“2 Broke Girls”) will voice a biology enthusiast in the movie’s English version.

“Monster Hunt 2”

The first installment of animator Raman Hui’s franchise, which combines fantasy, action and comedy elements, was once the highest-grossing Chinese film ever. The sequel has upgraded its budget (reportedly 900 million yuan), cast (adding Tony Leung, Li Yuchun and more), visual effects (George Lucas’s company Industrial Light and Magic is involved) and marketing.

To raise the film’s profile domestically, promoters went to China’s remote countryside to erect billboards or paint murals beside the regular big city promotions. The distributors also worked with more than 60 famous brands, including McDonald’s, to co-promote the film and license film merchandise. Promoters even bought a 60-second commercial spot for the film right before China’s most-watched TV event, the annual Spring Festival Gala on the eve of the Lunar New Year. No film has ever before secured that prime slot directly before the national program.

It is the most anticipated film of the Spring Festival season and has already broken presales records, earning more than 200 million yuan (US$31.55 million). It is an all-ages family film that may well cater to the festival atmosphere.

Distributors have kept the film secret and have not shown it to the media or others before its official release. How good or bad it will be remains to be seen, but based on the first installment, it will likely be a silly and hilarious movie that appeals more to children and family audiences.

Lionsgate has acquired the North American and U.K. theatrical distribution rights to “Monster Hunt 2.”

“Detective Chinatown 2”

“Detective Chinatown 2,” directed by Chen Sicheng and starring top actors Wang Baoqiang, Liu Haoran, Xiao Yang and Wang Xun, is currently the second best in the presale chart.

The sequel to the 2015 smash blockbuster “Detective Chinatown” tells the story of a detective trio embarking on an adventure to New York to participate in a world detective competition. They will solve a mysterious serial murder case based on clues and direction that they learn from the philosophical system in I Ching, the classic Chinese text also known as the Book of Changes, combined with investigation techniques used by detectives in the Western world.

The movie features diverse elements of comedy, action and suspense. The cast and crew traveled to New York for 40 days to shoot the film, with the assistance of the SAG-AFTRA union.

The first “Detective Chinatown” surprisingly grossed 818 million yuan (US$129.31 million) in 2015, so the second installment upgraded its scale, with a production budget of over 400 million yuan (US$63 million) — in comparison, as reported, the first installment’s budget was only 80 million yuan (US$12.6 million). The director is also expecting to develop the idea into a long-term franchise and expand its reach in the future.

It is worth noting that Warner Bros. Pictures has acquired North American distribution rights for “Detective Chinatown 2” from Wanda Media Co., Ltd and will release the film on Chinese lunar New Year in North American theaters. Jiang Defu, general manager of Wanda Media, said it is an exciting new cooperation, which will expand the global footprint of Chinese language films.

“The Monkey King 3”

“The Monkey King 3,” directed by Cheang Pou-soi, with star-studded cast led by Aaron Kwok, Zhao Liying, Feng Shaofeng, Xiao Shenyang, Him Law, Lin Chi-ling, Gigi Leung, Pan Binlong and more, is the third installment of a film series based on the 16th-century Chinese fantasy classic, “Journey to the West.”

In the film, Hong Kong megastar Aaron Kwok reprises his role of Monkey King while Feng Shaofeng again plays the monk. But the major attraction of the movie is actress Zhao Liying, starring as the ruler of an all-women nation.

“The Monkey King 3” is adapted by screen writer Wen Ning from a chapter in the original novel, depicting an exotic kingdom inhabited solely by women. The female ruler falls in love with the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) monk Xuanzang, who is on a mission from China to India with his three magical followers to collect Buddhist sutras.

Despite receiving mostly mixed and negative reviews, the previous two “Monkey King” episodes grossed more than 1 billion yuan (US$150 million) each at the box office during the prime Spring Festival season in 2014 and 2016.

As a tent-pole production, “The Monkey King 3” has a vast scope for production which lasted two years. A 1,000-strong cast and crew visited four provinces to shoot scenes while the production team has constructed massive outdoor sets covering 80,000 square meters as well as 11 indoor sets. Thousands of staff were also hired to work on post-production. The film’s budget is reportedly 550 million yuan (US$87.34 million) and its creators have made full use of the fund to create a visual spectacle combining comedy, action and bittersweet romantic elements.

Out of all the rivals for the Spring Festival film season, “The Monkey King 3” is the only one which has treated a large audience and the media with an advanced screening on a giant screen, indicating the confidence of its producers. The audience and media critics’ feedback after the screening is quite positive – clearly it is the best job that director Cheang Pou-soi has ever done.

“The Monkey King 3,” due to its romantic theme, is the first running starter of the season as it will have a massive advanced screening on Valentine’s Day.

“Operation Red Sea”

It is weird to have a hard-liner, and even violent R-rated, military blockbuster in a celebratory season of Spring Festival, but “Operation Red Sea” could arouse the nations pride and patriotism.

As China’s first modern naval film, “Operation Red Sea” is loosely based on the evacuation of the 225 foreign nationals and almost 600 Chinese citizens from Yemen’s southern port of Aden during the 2015 Yemeni Civil War in late March. It was the same event that inspired the highest grossing Chinese film ever “Wolf Warriors 2” which grossed 5.68 billion yuan (US$874 million) in 2017.

“Operation Red Sea,” directed by Dante Lam and starring Zhang Yi, Huang Jingyu, Hai Qing, Du Jiang and Prince Mak, will continue in similar style to that of Lam’s “Operation Mekong.”

With a budget of 500 million yuan (US$78.88 million), Lam focused the production on realness, which includes 50 types of real guns, 30,000 bullets and various other weapons and military vehicles. He refused to shoot the film at production sets in studios and went with all the crew to Africa to shoot the film for four months. It has received unprecedented generous help from the Chinese navy and Moroccan government, including the Chinese army leasing a 1.4 billion-yuan warship while Morocco leased tanks to the production team.

Although it currently has average box office presales compared with other blockbusters, its producer Yu Dong, president of Polybona Films, believes “Operation Red Sea” could be the biggest dark horse and eventual biggest winner of the Spring Festival race when word-of-mouth spreads. The film has already been shown to the industry insiders and film critics before its release, receiving the highest scores and reviews among all films to screen this season.

Source: China.org by Zhang Rui
Source: CEN
Movie guide for Spring Festival 2018

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