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Quentin Tarantino Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has finally landed a release date in China, home to the world’s second-biggest box office.
The Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt-starring film will unfurl in China on Oct. 25. It will be Tarantino’s first movie to get a proper release in the country.
Already a success with $344.6 million at the worldwide box office and counting, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood‘s clearance from Beijing will come as just more cause for celebration for Tarantino, Sony and the film’s China backers, Beijing-based Bona Film Group. Once Upon a Time also has yet to open in South Korea (Sept. 26), the world’s fourth-largest theatrical market.
As THR reported exclusively in January, Bona took a sizable equity stake in Once Upon a Time which grants the company participation in the film’s worldwide box office, as well as distribution rights in Greater China. Bona’s CEO and COO, Yu Dong and Jeffrey Chan, are credited as executive producers of the film.
The only prior Tarantino title to come close to a proper China release was his 2013 Western Django Unchained. That film initially received permission to screen, but was bizarrely ordered pulled from cinemas across the country minutes into its opening night. No official explanation for the sudden change was ever provided, but sources close to the situation said a senior Communist Party official saw the film on its opening night and took issue with its graphic violence. The film received heavy cuts and was rereleased a month later; but by then, pirate copies were widely available with Chinese subtitling. The unedited, pirated version was widely seen, but the delayed official release fizzled and promptly faded from cinemas.
Once Upon a Time‘s prospects at the Chinese box office are somewhat tricky to assess. The film is far less violent than most Tarantino pictures, meaning it’s unlikely to have received many cuts. But it’s also notably slower paced, nostalgically toned and steeped in Hollywood history that most Chinese filmgoers are unlikely to know.
Once Upon a Time also will be opening after China’s National Day holiday period, which begins Oct. 1. This year’s holiday marks the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic and is expected to generate a box office bonanza. All imported films are blocked from release during the political holiday, and most local movies scheduled to run at the time are aggressively nationalistic in story and tone. Once Upon a Time will be the second high-profile U.S. film to land in China after National Day 2019, following Ang Lee’s Gemini Man on Oct. 18.
The presence of DiCaprio, though, is always a powerful draw in China. Known to his legions of local fans as Xiao Li, or “Little Leo,” the actor has previously lifted the fortunes of imported films that wouldn’t normally appear a natural fit for the Chinese audience. After DiCaprio’s best actor Oscars glory in 2016, The Revenant earned $58.7 million in China, by far the most ever for a dark drama in the country.
The awards season buzz Once Upon a Time has already generated for Tarantino, DiCaprio and Pitt could also be a boon, given how reverently the Oscars are regarded in China.
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