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China's Revival gets IMAX boost

China's Revival gets IMAX boost

By Patrick Frater

Wed, 15 June 2011, 19:08 PM (HKT)

Industry News

The biggest Chinese film of the summer is literally that, the biggest, thanks to its simultaneous release on conventional and IMAX screens.

Beginning of the Great Revival 建黨偉業 (2011) (previously known as Birth of a Party), a big budget political film timed to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party of China, was released today in several thousand cinemas across the country.

Directed by HAN Sanping 韓三平 and HUANG Jianxin 黃建新, the film was made conventionally and converted into IMAX, where it now plays on 20 of the 24 commercial screens in China. As such it is only the second non-English language feature to be made for IMAX, after another Chinese film, Aftershock 唐山大地震 (2010), was the pioneer.

"We visited the set in September last year, we were convinced of the really high production values and quickly signed the contract," said Don Savant, IMAX's chief in China. "It was converted using the same DMR process used for Superman or Batman."

IMAX has been a huge success in China, where it is regarded as a premium brand, making the country the second biggest IMAX territory in the world, after the US. This weekend sees the opening of another giant screen in Shanghai through exhibitor Wanda Cinema Line Corporation 萬達電影院線股份有限公司, but the pace of opening is set to pick up further.

"By the end of 2011 we expect to have an additional 30-40 screens operational, more than doubling our total," said Savant.

Many of these will be part of a massive 75-cinema deal agreed with Wanda earlier this year, comprising a mixture of new-build screens and some retro-fits. Significantly for IMAX, the screens opened under the new deal are all digital and see IMAX and Wanda share the box office revenues.

Other Chinese films seem poised to make a similar upgrade. IMAX has a three film deal with Huayi Brothers Media Corporation 華誼兄弟傳媒股份有限公司, of which Aftershock was the first, and John WOO 吳宇森 is to make his postponed airborne war picture Flying Tigers 飛虎群英 as an IMAX film. "Ideally we'd like to work with the best directors and have three or four Chinese per year in IMAX, giving us a nice mixture of Chinese and Hollywood blockbusters," said Savant.

The distribution calendar in China has been substantially cleared to make way for Revival and ensure its success. SARFT has told exhibitors around the country that it requires the 90th anniversary film to gross a minimum of RMB1 billion ($154 million). But Savant plays down reports of distributor China Film Group Corporation 中國電影集團公司 taking an aggressive approach to pricing and rental terms. "We are charging standard IMAX prices (RMB120, $18.50)," said Savant.

The Shanghai Film Art Centre (上海影城), the central venue of the ongoing Shanghai International Film Festival 上海國際電影節, is charging RMB40 ($6.17) per ticket for daytime non-IMAX showings of Revival and RMB90 ($13.88) for evening sessions.

The Founding of a Republic, Revival's predecessor, which was also co-directed by Han and Huang and used a similar star-studded formula, grossed a massive RMB419 million ($64.7 million) in 2009.

Quoted by official news agency Xinhua, JIANG Defu 蔣德富, marketing manager of China Film Group expects Revival to double Republic's box-office receipts and reach an audience of 30 million people.

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