Tag Archives: China

China Embraces Event Cinema With ‘Turandot’ and 3D ‘Farewell My Concubine’ (CJ EXCLUSIVE)

NCPA Turandot

China’s two major opera houses are joining the ranks of distinguished institutions like the Met Opera and the Royal Opera House with the first recordings and screenings of their operas.

Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) recording of Puccini’s Turandot opened this month’s Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF), while the Shanghai Jingju Company will screen the 3D opera adaptation of Farewell My Concubine at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles later this year.

The decisive push shows that China is as ambitious in the field of event cinema as it is in conventional films for cinema, despite the lack of tradition of screening ‘alternative content’ in cinemas.

Yesterday the BJIFF hosts the screening of NCPA Opera House’s Turandot, which has been localised and given a Beijing-setting but sung in Italian. The event was captured in high definition in partnership with  Huaxia Film Distribution Co. and will also be shown at the upcoming 17th Shanghai Film Festival, which will have a special focus on opera movie screening.

Perhaps counterintuitively, the first screening of the event took place at the NCPA itself on Sunday 16 March, as part of the 2014 Opera Festival, where a special 6-meter-high and 16-meter-wide screen was erected on the stage for the HD projection, with the production crew, NCPA orchestra and choir members all present to see their work on the big screen.

Turandot cinema show

The BJIFF screening took place at the Xidan Joy City Capital cinema, which has 290 seats and recorded an attendance well over 70%. Much like western operas shown in cinemas, the audiences clapped and cheered ‘Bravo!’, despite the opera not even being shown live.

Interviewed afterwards by Xinhua news, the audience members were overwhelmingly positive to the new experience.

“The film version of the stage version of the opera and there are still differences.” Audience Li Wei said, “the stage version of the opera actor observed facial expressions, and the movie screen actor expression, subtle emotional changes have been enlarged, more have impact.” In his view, the film more fully meet the opera opera lovers’ visual enjoyment. When Princess Turandot tears appear on the screen, kneeling in prayer picture viewer Hu Fang Yankuangshirun. “I’ve seen the opera before,” Turandot “, but there is no sound in the cinema today feeling good, feeling listening to music today play exceptionally moving,” she said.

As in US and UK, the price is a major factor for the popularity, with tickets for regular screenings in cinemas across China starting from today, costing just 30-50 yuan (USD $4.80-8.00).

Read More »

America’s Greatest Cinema Export to China Is Under Threat (Not Movies, Popcorn)

Chinese and american cinema audiences

Could Chinese authorities be about restrict imports of the quintessential multiplex staple imported from the United States?

No, we are not talking about movies or Hollywood; the greatest American export success to Chinese cinemas does not come from California but from the fields in Nebraska.

Different Attitudes – Changing Habits

Nothing illustrates the difference between Chinese and American cinema goers more than the respective attitudes to 3D and popcorn. While American audiences are increasingly turning their back on 3D, their appetite for concessions appears undiminished, to the point of circuits like Marcus and Laemmle installing larger seats to accommodate the expanding backsides.

Meanwhile, the challenge for Chinese cinemas is how to get people to consume more concessions to match their seemingly insatiable appetite for 3D films and thus increase average revenue per cinema visit. But a change is already underway.

The importance of popcorn to the growing Chinese cinema sector was highlighted by the recent revelation by Dalian Wanda Group that nationwide popcorn sales for its Chinese cinemas totaled 390 million yuan (USD $62.8 million) last year.  This amounted to 72% of total concession sales and 9.5% of its total earnings of 4.1 billion yuan. (By way of comparison Wanda’s American chain AMC earned USD $1,847 million from ticket sales and USD $787 million from food and beverage in 2013, with concessions thus representing over 28% of total revenue.)

The push to pop in China is understandable because the ingredients for a bucket of popcorn cost just 3 yuan (US$0.48) while selling for 20 to 30 yuan (USD $3.22-$4.83). Huang Qunfei, general manager of the Chinese exhibitor Beijing New Film Association,  was quoted by Xinhua as saying, ”It is very common to have an 80-percent profit margin in selling popcorn due to its low costs. Although tickets sales make up the largest share of revenues, popcorn and snacks can sometimes contribute more to profits.”

Sales of popcorn accounted for as much as 20% of the total revenue of Chinese cinemas turnover in 2013. Wanda is the largest but not the only circuit benefitting from growing popcorn demand. Quoted in the Want China Times:

An executive at the Beijing UME Cineplex stated that popcorn and beverages were usually the only derivatives sold at domestic cinemas and that the complex’s popcorn sales accounted for 10% of its total revenue of at least 30 million yuan (US$4.8 million) last year.

However, the issue of concessions is complicated by the increasing tendency by Chinese cinemas to bundle cinema tickets, popcorn and sodas as one combo.

Read More »

Daily Cinema Digest – Tuesday 8 April 2014

Imax China

Imax is to sell 20% of its China business to two Chinese-based entities in return for USD $80 million and a firmer foot hold in the world’s soon-to-be largest cinema market.

IMAX Chief Executive Richard Gelfond said in an interview that investment fund China Media Capital and private-equity firm FountainVest Partners would pay $40 million each for 10% stakes by early 2015. He said the deal gives IMAX local partners who will open up expansion opportunities in one of its most important markets.

The investors will shepherd a public offering of shares of the China operation, IMAX China Holding Inc., in the next five years, Mr. Gelfond said. IMAX China will be paying IMAX Corp. an ongoing trademark and licensing fee for the right to use the IMAX trademark in China, a spokeswoman said. IMAX China is aiming to list in Hong Kong but will be positioning itself to list on other China exchanges, such as in Shanghai, in case that doesn’t work out or a better opportunity arises on the mainland, a spokeswoman said.  LINK

Not only will this allow for expansion in China, but Imax must also be hoping to neutralise the nascent threat from CFGS - though this is not mentioned in the above article.


Barco laser projection

USA (LV): Lasers are coming! This follow-up article from David Keene provides excellent insights from the pre-NAB Cinema Summit on what is happening on the laser front.

The first shots were fired on Saturday, in the session “Laser Illuminated Projectors: What’s New and When Will They Arrive? Bill Beck, President of BTM Consulting moderated panelists Pete Ludé, CTO of Mission Rock Digital; Goran Stojmenovik , Product Manager Laser Projection, Barco; Richard McPherson of NEC Display Solutions; and Don Shaw, Senior Director of Product Management for Entertainment Solutions at Christie.

The panel was straight forward– not your typical panel involving a lot of speculation and vague talk of coming solutions. It was three major projector manufactures explaining their new Laser projectors. And surprisingly, this was not a “me too” exercise: each company is launching a very different kind of Laser projector and/or 3D solution into the market this spring.  LINK

You Will Be Amazed To Find Out What The Differences Between The Different Laser Projector Solutions Are!

Read More »

Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 2 April 2014

Black coal, Thin Ice

The emergence of China as the world’s second largest cinema territory after US comes as news to precisely no one. Interestingly recent Hollywood films like RoboCop and Need for Speed have earned more at the Chinese box office than in North America, helped in no small part by their 3D release.

According to a report by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), China’s box office sales in 2013 achieved $3.6 billion and grew by 27%, compared to the 1% growth observed in the U.S. Many insiders predict it will surpass the U.S. in six years.

SARFT announced an alarmingly rapid proliferation of cinemas in China in 2013, with an average of 13 new theaters being built per day.

But while Chinese films have previously tended toward mythological/historic epics or reality TV show adaptations, the success of Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear-winner Black coal, Thin Ice, points towards an interesting change in the tastes of the Chinese cinema going public, as explored by this CNN article.

The cherry landed on top when the film opened in China on March 19 to unexpectedly high box office earnings. State-run news agency Xinhua reported the movie raked in US$12.8 million in its first two weeks, becoming the current king of Chinese language cinema.

“I did think that we would do better than other Chinese award-winners, but I never thought we could possibly reach the RMB 100 million mark,” says Diao, who was attending the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

The success of “Black Coal, Thin Ice” is a possible game changer for the global film industry. If Chinese films continue to be so well-rounded, it could challenge the Hollywood-dominated global film scene.

While the last sentence is a tad optimistic, in that the film is only likely to do well outside of China at the art-house circuit, it could be an indication on a broadening of the types of films that get released and do well in China. If that it is the case, it will in itself be enough a challenge for Hollywood.


KenCast digital cinema

KenCast: With CinemaCon barely over, it is time already to focus attention on NAB. KenCast is one of the companies that will show off their products and solutions.

Delivering content for the military, government agencies and news media for two decades, KenCast continues to enhance its offerings to meet the latest requirements in digital cinema and even those of the future with their EdgeSpan CinemaPro appliances.

KenCast will feature a privately held 4K ad-splicing technology demonstration with Audience Response System (ARS) for cinema, at this year’s NAB exhibition, showing how theater exhibitors can splice national or local advertisements into a live stream.  LINK

Read More »

BREAKING NEWS: Wanda Breaks Embargo on Deal For 780 New RealD 3D Installations

Wanda breaks RealD embargo

CELLULOID JUNKIE EXCLUSIVE: It seems that China’s Wanda – the world’s biggest cinema operator and owner of American multiplex chain AMC – has broken its own embargo on an announcement for an expanded deal with 3D vendor RealD.

It looks like this deal was set to be announced on Monday next week (24th of March), which is the international day of CinemaCon and the day these type of deals typically get announced.

The statement (translated by Google) reads:

March 24, Wanda Cinema 3D images with the world-renowned technology provider RealD jointly announced that the two sides will continue cooperation agreement, Wanda Cinema will install 780 sets of RealD 3D equipment in the next three years, placed in Wanda Cinema The 3D movie hall. Plus 800 sets of equipment currently installed Wanda Cinema, RealD equipment Wanda total installed throughout China will be more than 1500 sets.

RealD is currently the world’s most widely used 3D cinema projection technology. As of March 4, 2014, there are 74 countries worldwide, more than 25,049 screens in 1,000 theaters install RealD 3D projection equipment. Brightness RealD 3D theater system is twice that of other 3D technologies, and have screened the film features a high frame rate.

The fact that the story (press release?) is dated March 24th means that it was most likely to be on hold until that date, but somehow the Chinese version was posted on Wanda’s website too early.

If this is the case, this is a serious slip-up as RealD is a publicly listed company and a big deal like this could give its share price a bounce. Wanda had a previous deal in place with RealD from 2010 for 500 screens.

Read More »

Daily Cinema Digest – Fri/Sat 14-15 March 2014


The future looks bright for multiplexes in China

While India is  interesting as a cinema market (see yesterday’s Daily) it is China that matters as far as Hollywood is concerned, with Mainland BO set to overtake the US in as little as four years.

So domestic Chinese cinema news is of international importance and with multiplexes approaching saturation in the major urban centres (Beijing, Shanghai, etc), some good news for the Tier II and Tier III cities that you’ve probably never heard of but still have populations of three to six million inhabitants. PRC central government has recognised the role the film and cinema industries have played in boosting the economy and are proposing tax breaks o for real estate companies to ensure further multiplex growth in shopping malls. From THR:

The rate of shopping mall construction in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other tier-one cities — already well served by shiny new theaters — is set to cool because of measures aimed at offsetting a possible real estate bubble. But analysts believe smaller cities remain full of potential.

The government also is examining ways to consolidate the Chinese exhibition sector and slash the number of theater chains — now about 40 — in half. Many are owned by local governments, but their theaters are antiquated and no longer competitive.

There also are plans to encourage the use of theaters for diverse content other than movies, such as major sporting events and 3D classical music concerts.

While not as good news for Hollywood as any further easing of the annual 34-film quota, this still means a bigger audience for Hollywood films.

Event Cinema

New season from Met won't be cheap

New season from Met won’t be cheap

USA: The new season of the Met Opera is about to start and tickets go on sale tomorrow (Sunday) in the UK for Cineworld’s Picturehouse cinemas and elsewhere.

Prices are: Live screenings £30, Encore screenings £20, with £7 off each price for members. Annual membership cost varies; in London it’s typically £40, and includes 3 free tickets for standard shows (not including Met Live and similar events).

Even with the members’ discount Picturehouse is not quite the cheapest deal in London (see here for alternatives), but it still (oddly) costs less than the grant-aided BFI and Barbican, which have not yet announced when they will open for booking.  LINK

That’s a pretty steep price (rise) and Londoners looking for cheap tickets would have to travel to the suburbs.

For the true ‘Live in HD’ experience, the cheapest London tickets I can find are the Barnet Odeon’s. OK, so it’s a 30 minute tube ride from the centre of town (close to High Barnet station), but with seats at £15.50-£18 the prices make the journey worthwhile. And there are still plenty of tickets available, for everything.  LINK

Read More »

RoboCop’s 3D Success in China Spells Trouble for Imax


The 10-day haul of RMB 76.3 million (USD $42 million) of RoboCop in China spells major challenge for Imax, as it affirms the arrival of its biggest potential rival on the large format (LF) and 3D scene in China and possibly beyond.

Much like Robocop vs. Enforcement Droid Series 209 in the original film, this will be an un-even match where the largest firepower will not necessarily win out over the smaller new rival. As LA Times notes, “Jose Padillha’s remake may yield more in China than it has in the U.S. and Canada, where it has made $54 million since its mid-February release.” A large portion of this comes from the cinemas showing it in 3D (the only country in the world to show it this way) and on large format screen – though crucially not Imax screens but ones from China Film Giant Screen (CFGS).


In order to understand the challenge that CFGS poses to Imax it is important to know a bit about the history of LF film and cinema. The format was effectively invented by Canada’s Imax and showcased at the 1970 Osaka Expo. Because of the inherent limitations of 70mm films, feature films were not practical, which is why it tended to focus on documentaries about Africa or Space Station for school classes and museum visitors. Imax’s only real competitor during this time was Iwerks Entertainment, though the latter was mainly focusing on specialty venues and virtual reality theatres.

In 2001 Imax was nearly wiped out by the spate of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filings from US cinema chains that saw long-term deals with the Canadian firm cancelled. Imax slowly re-built itself with a focus on feature films and courting Hollywood for first-run releases converted for the LF screen using the in-house DMR process.

Imax struck gold with Polar Express in 3D and soon started focusing more on multiplexes while rolling out new digital projection technology that did away with the 70mm limitations. Because many cinema chains objected to Imax’s terms, they created own-brand LF screens, with names such as Cinemark’s XD, Regal’s RPX, AMC’s ETX, Carmike Cinemas’ BigD and VueXtreme. 3D vendor RealD also tried creating a unifying brand with the Luxe. However, none have created the same inelastic demand at a premium pricing point that Imax achieved. Then along came CFGS.


CFGS is challenging Imax on two fronts with the RoboCop release. The first is the 2D-to-3D conversion, which was undertaken in-house by Cubic Pictures for a China-only 3D release.

Read More »

Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 28 February 2014

Secret Cinema‘s Grand Budapest Hotel throws open its doors in London… UK and Ireland get drive in cinemas (both showing Grease)… Chinese crack-down on ticket fraud… Brooklyn’s oldest independent cinema goes Indigogo for digital… Some news from Germany… Learn a new word (Kinosterben) as two art-deco masterpieces are gutted and only facades remain… Russian megaplax goes for expansion with RealD’s Luxe… and seven reasons to go to the cinema on your own.

Secret Cinema’s The Grand Budapest Hotel has been getting rave reviews (we plan to bring you our own shortly), as the man behind it reveals future plans.

Tweets of outrage greeted Secret Cinema’s latest – and not because it un-Secret-ly announced it was a worldwide preview of the acclaimed new film by Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr Fox).

Sample scoff: ‘£53 a ticket? I could fly to Budapest and back for that.’

But then Secret Cinema offers more than just cinema. It’s closer to the immersive theatre experiences of Punchdrunk (which also charges around – or, crucially, just under – £50 a ticket). LINK.

In fact, the showing has been such a success that it has already been extended until 30 March and is getting top marks from the London Evening Standard’s Chief Arts Correspondent.

The peculiar eastern European nation of Zubrowka has been recreated in a derelict lead and glass factory as the Secret Cinema team – who produce immersive theatrical experiences around screening films – bring Wes Anderson’s new movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, to life.

At Secret Cinema in the past, the thrill has been spotting characters – played by actors – and incidents enacted from favourite cult movies before watching the film again.

With The Grand Budapest Hotel not on general release until next week, the “Ah, of course…” sigh of recognition comes only upon taking a seat in the “ballroom” cinema to catch the end-of-evening screening. LINK.


Talking to Screen Daily, Rigall reveals how they got permission to open the film a week early:

Having established a relationship with Fox through their production of Prometheus, Riggall proposed to distributor Fox Searchlight that Secret Cinema could preview The Grand Budapest Hotel before it goes on general release in the UK on March 7. They also secured the consent and approval of Wes Anderson’s team.

“We are keen to build partnerships with the industry and Fox have given us a great vote of confidence in what we are doing,” says Riggall, who originally trained at the New York Film Academy.

“This new series of Secret Cinema Presents will take certain films and release them in this way to create appetite and interest from audiences,” he explains, highlighting how the company did a similar thing with documentaries The Imposter and Searching For Sugar Man.  LINK.

Next up Secret Cinema plans to expand in US and Asia, but first it has something really big planned for the UK this summer. Secret, of course.


China: The Chinese government has slapped down a handful of cinemas that were falsifying box office reports to avoid paying tax and distributor rental.

Nine Chinese cinemas have been banned from screening new movies after they were found to have cheated in box office figures, according to two film associations.

Among them, six cinemas in east China’s Shandong Province and northern Shanxi are banned until they rectify their practice and the other three are banned for one month, said a statement issued on Wednesday by the China Film Producers’ Association and China Film Distribution and Screening Association.

The two semi-official organizations are under the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

These cinemas were found to have reported fake box office figures to authorities, sold hand written (or no) tickets or hindered official box office inspections.

In one case, a cinema in south China’s Hainan Province registered no audience at all in their computer system despite the screenings in question receiving viewers normally.

This fraud mainly took place in independently owned cinemas in tier two and three cities, where there is often cut-throat competition from over-building. The Chinese state is forcing all cinemas to move over to a national digital ticketing platform. LINK.

Russia: A Russian exhibitor with an American CEO (Paul Heth, above) is planning an aggressive megaplex and multiplex expansion drive in Moscow, St Petersburg and Siberia.

Russian cinema chain Karo Film said Thursday it would spend $150 million over the next two years in a capital investment and expansion program.

The investment program, in association with equity investors Russian Direct Investment Fund and Baring Vostok, will include building and developing what the company calls Russia’s largest “next generation” movie theaters.
The first of the new cinema complexes, the Karo Vegas 22 Megaplex, where builders have already broken ground, is due to open in July in Crocus City, a major shopping and entertainment site on the outskirts of Moscow, easily accessible from the city’s beltway MKAD road.

The 19,000-square-meter site will house 22 screens and 5,000 seats.

Interestingly it will be one of the first sites to feature RealD’s Imax-competitor LUXE. LINK.  

Read More »

Will China Spoil the Party for IMAX in 2014?


Who doesn’t wish that they had bought IMAX stocks in 2001? Back then the once-great large format film company had been reduced to a penny stock on the back of US cinemas filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to get out of expenses leases and also costly contracts with IMAX. Digital was just over the horizon and even the vaunted Digital Media Remastering (DMR) up-converting technology had yet to make a dent and give it access to first-run films ( re-release of “Apollo 13″ was the first DMR title).

Yesterday the shares jumped to over $27 on the NYS ( C$30 on TSE) on the back of one of the companies best quarters ever. It might not quite have reached the heady heights of the late 1990s, but it is still a good time cash in for anyone who bought cheap. The question now is, can the good times last?

IMAX’s revenue increased from $77.4m to $105m, while profit more than doubled to $27.8m for the last quarter of 2013, compared with a profit of $12.8m a year earlier.  Analyst firm Piper Jaffray rightly described it as a “blockbuster” fourth-quarter results. The revenue was primarily driven by three titles: “Gravity”, “The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug” and “Stalingrad”, the latter of which did well in Russia and Europe ahead of its US release in February. IMAX also got good at being brutal in 2013, by yanking under-performing titles like “After Earth”, “The Lone Ranger” and “Ender’s Game” off their screens after just one week.

It is revenue from films that forms the largest component of IMAX’s earnings these days. As noted by Variety:

Imax said it earned $244 million worldwide during the period, its highest global box office quarter. It earned $727 million during the year.

It averaged $366,300 per screen during the fourth quarter.

“Gravity,” alone, generated around $100 million for the company. Film has earned over $700 million worldwide for Warner Bros.

Given the large-screen spectacle nature of “Gravity”, “Stalingrad” and “Hobbit” it should come as no surprise, but it is still a seizable figure. Other earnings also grew compared to (Q4 2012), but were smaller overall:

  • Sales and sales-type leases – $32.6m ($20.2m);
  • Joint revenue-sharing arrangements – $24.5m ($17m);
  • Production and DMR – $28.6m ($19.2m);

The more interesting and important figure is the number of new screens. From THR:

During the latest quarter, Imax signed contracts for 119 theater systems and installed 58, of which four were upgrades of existing venues. That brought the full-year total of installations to 112 new theater systems across 23 countries.

The most important growth has come in territories such as China, South Korea and India. As told in a separate piece for THR:

Imax is experiencing continued growth for its fast-expanding theater network in China. The giant-screen exhibitor recently expanded its contract with China’s largest theatrical chain, Wanda Cinema Line Corp., so don’t expect more blockbuster deals anytime soon.

“I don’t think you’re going to see another 120-theater deal like we had with Wanda. That’s not going to happen,” Imax CEO Richard Gelfond told analysts Thursday after the release of his company’s fourth-quarter results.

IMAX is thus keen to play down expectations that the good news will roll for ever. The question is whether there are major challenges ahead. Gelfond was upfront about the problems faced in China. Although the previous quota increase benefitted IMAX, the expected additional increase has not happened.

It is also likely that not all IMAX titles will pass the Chinese censors in 2014 and the problems of getting the right type of Chinese blockbusters onto the largest of screens still remains. While IMAX has had an easier time getting Russian epics like “Stalingrad” or Bollywood blockbusters such as “Dhoom 3″ released around the world, getting Chinese films onto Chinese IMAX screens represents the greatest potential and pitfall for IMAX. But that’s not all.

Read More »

New Chinese Box Office Records Come As No Surprise

Monkey King and Dad Posters

Thanks to a quota on foreign films limiting the number of imported titles to 34, movie studios have often struggled to get their movies released in China. Apparently there is no quota on box office bragadocio and Hollywood has been able to easily export its affinity for trumpeting their latest movie grosses.

Ironically, the Chinese have turned news of their country’s latest theatrical grosses into one of their own exportable goods. When China set a new single-day box office record by earning CNY ¥248 million (USD $41 million) on January 31st, it made headlines around the world. I get it; touting box office grosses helps promote specific movies. However, there actually happens to be good reason this week to take notice of China’s grosses, which I’ll get to in a moment.

This past weekend marked the start of the Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, a 15-day holiday that has grown into one of the country’s biggest movie going periods. This has been especially true in 2014. Based on box office alone the year of the horse has already been quite prosperous for the China’s homegrown movies, and presumably, its theatre operators.

Over the holiday weekend “The Monkey King”, starring Donnie Yen took in CNY ¥279 million (USD $46 million) in its first three days of release. Also opening with a bang was “Dad, Where Are We Going?”, and based on its CNY ¥205 million (USD $34 million) debut, I’d have to say the answer to that question is… the bank.

These grosses not only put “The Monkey King” and “Dad, Where Are We Going?” at the top of China’s box office, but were also enough to place them in first and second place on the worldwide chart. Thus the reason for the global fuss being made over the news.

Directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Poi Soi Cheang “The Monkey King” is a big 3D epic adapted from Wu Chen-en’s beloved Journey to the West tales and it was widely expected to attract a big audience. So was “Dad, Where Are We Going?” which is based on a hit reality television show featuring celebrity fathers and their families. It’s first day gross of CNY ¥90 million (USD $15 million) is yet another record breaker; highest single-day gross for a 2D Chinese-language title. Because setting just one record in a weekend is so year of the snake (2013).

Read More »