Cannes Palme d'Or Winner 'Shoplifters' Acquired by Road Pictures for China (Exclusive)

'Shoplifters' Still 1 - Publicity -H 2018
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

The growing Beijing-based distributor also has taken all China rights to Nadine Labaki’s Cannes Jury Prize winner 'Capernaum.'

Two of the most celebrated titles from this year's Cannes Film Festival are heading to Chinese movie screens, courtesy of Beijing-based distributor Road Pictures.

The company has acquired all China rights to Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda's Palme d'Or winner Shoplifters and Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum, which won the Jury Prize at the fest. Road Pictures says it is planning nationwide Chinese theatrical releases for both titles in the coming months.

"We believe the Chinese audience is gravitating towards quality and meaning, so this was our objective in Cannes — to find special films that will not only challenge the audience, but also move them deeply," said Road Pictures CEO Cai Gongming. "In that sense, we are extremely fortunate to have secured the rights to both Shoplifters and Capernaum, which were the two Cannes titles that impressed us the most." Both acquisitions were made prior to the festival's awards ceremony, Cai added.

Inspired by real-life events, Kore-eda's Shoplifters is a stirring drama that centers on a family of misfits living on the margins of society in Tokyo, while Labaki's Lebanese family drama Capernaum tells the story of a child who rebels against the life imposed on him and launches a lawsuit against his parents.

"Beyond the sheer quality of the filmmaking, the films tackle issues that will resonate with the Chinese audience, such as the fate of parentless children and the concept of family,” said Road Pictures co-founder Cao Jia. “We believe both titles have a significant commercial potential in China."

Just two or three years ago, art house filmmaking of this kind would have had limited to zero currency in China, where Hollywood tentpoles and local blockbusters have tended to reign. But the tastes of Chinese moviegoers have rapidly diversified in recent years, making the Middle Kingdom arguably the world's biggest market for select foreign filmmaking. Major Chinese box-office hits from 2017 — all of which would be inconceivable in North America — include the Bollywood sports drama Dangal ($193 million in China), Thailand’s high school thriller Bad Genius ($41 million) and the Spanish mystery thriller The Invisible Guest ($26 million).

"Not all art house films have this potential, of course," Cai explained. "But some small-budget, high-quality movies that are especially emotionally moving stories can do very good business in China today. This process of maturation happened much faster than anyone expected."

Cai says Road Pictures will work to secure release dates for the films as quickly as possible to capitalize on the Cannes awards buzz.  

Established in 2014, Road Pictures is a film and television financing, production, marketing and distribution company, with offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Los Angeles. Last year, it released Italian director Cristiano Bortone's Coffee, which was the first China-Italy co-production. Road Pictures' upcoming releases include the sci-fi thriller Anon, directed by Andrew Niccol and starring Amanda Seyfried and Clive Owen. The company also has served as a PR and marketing partner in China on some of Hollywood's biggest tentpoles, including Avengers: Infinity War, Tomb Raider, Justice League and others.