China claims 'Astro Boy'

Animated pic cleared for Oct. 23 opening

HONG KONG -- "Astro Boy," a big budget cartoon from Hong Kong- and L.A.-based Imagi International, will escape China's film import quotas and be considered a local picture on the Chinese mainland.

Having been granted co-production status in China, the film will be released by the powerful China Film Group in a day-and-date opening on Oct. 23 with many other international territories. The Chinese industry's regulator, the China Film Bureau typically "blacks out" release windows around major national holidays, keeping the plum dates for domestic and co-produced films.

"Not only does co-production mean we get access to release windows not available to foreign films, we also receive a higher percentage of boxoffice receipts," said Chiong Kit Phoon, Imagi's executive deputy chairman.

Produced by Maryann Garger, the $40 million picture about a boy with super powers was written by Timothy Harris ("Kindergarten Cop," "Trading Places") and director David Bowers as an adaptation of a famous Japanese cartoon series of the same title. International sales were handled by Summit Entertainment.

The English-language version voice track features the voices of Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Matt Lucas, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland and Nicolas Cage.