With Chinese films grossing nearly 4 billion yuan ($592 million) during the eight-day National Day holiday, studios have announced a raft of new projects and release dates for several finished blockbusters.
The first good news for Chinese cinemagoers is the release of Chen Sicheng's "Detective Chinatown 3." The movie will hit the big screen on Spring Festival next year which falls on Feb. 12.
The film was the most anticipated movie of this year's Spring Festival holiday, taking a record-breaking 200 million yuan (US$30 million) in presales. However, the sudden COVID-19 outbreak led distributors to shelve its release.
A poster for "New Gods: Ne Zha Reborn." [Image courtesy of Alibaba Pictures]
Also set for a Spring Festival release is "New Gods: Ne Zha Reborn," produced by Light Chaser Animation, the studio behind 2019 box office hit "White Snake."
The movie puts a cyberpunk-twist on the ancient Chinese fantasy classic novel "The Investiture of the Gods," with protagonist Ne Zha reincarnated in a futuristic world. It looks to follow in the footsteps of "Ne Zha" and "Legend of Deification," the two highest grossing animated films in China.
Dante Lam's "The Rescue," another film originally scheduled for release early this year, will instead join next year's Spring Festival lineup. Comedy film "Endgame" and fantasy thriller "Assassin in Red" are also set for release in Spring Festival 2021, with more rivals likely to soon announce dates in or around the period.
A promotional poster for "The Yin-Yang Master: Dreams of Eternity." [Image courtesy of China Magic Film]
China still has some way to go if it is to overtake the United States as the No. 1 film market for 2020. One film looking to boost box office takings in the country is fantasy epic "The Yin-Yang Master: Dreams of Eternity" which hits Chinese screens on Dec. 25, alongside fellow releases "Shock Wave 2," "Warm Hug" and "A Little Red Flower."
A poster for "Caught in Time." [Image courtesy of Bravo Entertainment]
November is set to be a bumper month for fans of crime movies, with "Back to the Wharf" to arrive in Chinese theaters on Nov. 6, and gangster film "Caught in Time" confirming a Nov. 27 release date.
Possibly the most anticipated film of the year is the looming war epic "Jin Gang Chuan" which is set for release on Oct. 25 to mark the 70th anniversary of China's entry into the Korean War.
The film is co-directed by three critically acclaimed Chinese directors Guan Hu, Frant Gwo and Lu Yang, and features an all-star cast including Wu Jing and Zhang Yi.
A poster for "Jin Gang Chuan." [Image courtesy of Maxtimes Culture]
Other directors are also taking on the subject of the Korean War. Zhang Yimou, one of China's top filmmakers, recently started shooting a film about an acclaimed sniper during the conflict, according to media reports. Meanwhile, Andrew Lau will soon resume directing duties on a movie about the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, with shooting previously suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Both films are scheduled for release next year.
With the pandemic still raging in the U.S., prospects for North American theaters are less rosy: No new major nationwide releases have been announced in the country until "Wonder Woman 1984" on Dec. 25. However, Warner Bros. has still not yet ruled out pushing back its release date to 2021.
On Oct. 2, it was also announced that the latest Bond film, "No Time To Die," among other tentpoles, would be delayed to 2021, dashing the hopes of many U.S. theater owners for a rebound.
Cineworld, which owns Regal Cinemas with 543 venues in the United States, confirmed on Oct. 4 that it is considering closure of its U.K. and U.S. cinemas. In response to the news, director of "Wonder Woman 1984" Patty Jenkins warned during an interview with Reuters: "We could lose movie theater-going forever."
A poster for "Doraemon: Nobita's New Dinosaur." [Image courtesy of China Film Group]
Imported foreign films, especially those from Hollywood, which normally contribute significantly to the Chinese film market's total annual gross, reduced dramatically this year. There looks likely to be a continued lack of major releases, unless Hollywood studios have confidence in China's market and choose to show them in Chinese theaters in advance.
So far, only a few foreign offerings, notably Turkish film "Miracle in Cell No. 7" and Japanese animated movies "Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna" and "Doraemon: Nobita's New Dinosaur," have announced plans to hit Chinese theaters before the end of the year.
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