Columbia Eyeing Strong Asian Box Office for 'The Green Hornet' During Lunar New Year
BEIJING – Jay Chou on Monday upstaged Hollywood funnyman cum superhero Seth Rogen on the first leg of their Asian tour to promote The Green Hornet, in which the Taiwanese pop star-turned actor plays sidekick Kato, reprising a role once played by kung fu king Bruce Lee.
On Feb. 6, director Michel Gondry’s Sony Pictures 3D comic book superhero film, already a hit in the West, will be the first Hollywood movie to premiere in China during the Lunar New Year period, when Chinese travel home for a 10-day holiday and moviegoing picks up.
China’s boxoffice rose 64 percent in 2010 t hit $1.47 billion and a surge in wealth and theater building has made the territory the biggest outside the U.S. for four Hollywood blockbusters in the last 14 months: 2010, Transformers 2, Avatar and Alice in Wonderland.
Columbia is hoping to capitalize on Chou’s platinum popularity as a singer in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan (he told Rogen he was the “Chinese Usher”) and leverage promotional sponsorship from the Coca-Cola Co.’s green-bottled brand Sprite.
“We have huge expectations for this film,” Li Chow of Columbia’s Beijing office said at a press event, noting that the state-run monopoly film importer China Film Group and its sister distributor Huaxia Film Distribution Co will put Green Hornet out on at least 3,000 of the nation’s 5,690 screens.
Over 100 Chinese reporters and dozens of Chou fans lofting smart phone cameras high were captivated by the slight, mop-haired singer as he fielded questions in Mandarin seated in front of a giant backdrop in which his masked visage featured more prominently than that of the movie’s leading man Rogen.
Chou, who sings The Green Hornet soundtrack’s theme song, said working in Hollywood where he’s not often recognized and chased by paparazzi as he is in the East provided him great freedom: “This project felt very good. I had room to be creative. Since my English is not that good, this film was not a formal entry into Hollywood. We’ll have to see what develops there for me.”
Asked why he’d cast Chou, Frenchman Gondry, director of the surreal Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind, Rewind, said: “We didn’t really know Jay was such as star when we started looking at this movie. But when we saw his films, we saw he was cool and natural.”
Rogen, like Gondry, sat beside Chou looking tired and nonplussed through the 30-minute question and answer session conducted through an interpreter. Both men politely repeated the Mandarin greeting “ni hao” for the press and Rogen, when asked to sing one of Chou’s songs, livened up and cracked wise:
“Just as I would not attempt to paint my own version of the Mona Lisa I would not attempt to sing one of Jay Chou’s songs,” Rogen said, adding later that his co-star was “much better than Usher.”
”I don’t own any Usher albums but now I own every Jay Chou album,” Rogen said, whereupon Gondry queried: ”Did you pay for them?”
Rogen: “No. I should say that. I didn’t pay for them. Jay gave them to me.”
Gondry: “Jay took us away many times to his car with his bodyguard and forced us to listen to his music very loud and beat us up if we didn’t like it.”
Chow of Columbia said afterwards: “See, they get along so well.”
The press event held in the luxury Grand Hyatt was set to be followed by a sneak preview screening and a giveaway by Sprite, of a replica of the Green Hornet’s tricked-out car, Black Beauty, to one of six Chinese performer-contestants in martial arts, street dancing and rap music.
After The Green Hornet’s U.S. press tour and initial home-turf boxoffice success – $34 million over the opening weekend – Sony on Tuesday takes Chou, Rogen and Gondry to their next Asian tour stop in South Korea, followed by Japan and Taiwan.