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The teen tentpole, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and has already grossed $620 million in worldwide box office, will screen in the fast-growing Asian market in the first half of June.
That’s a coup for Lionsgate as the Suzanne Collins books, on which the Hunger Games movie franchise is based, have not sold as widely overseas as in North America. Getting the Lionsgate title into China, and also coming up in Japan, gets Hunger Games into an even bigger world market than the one earlier primed by the book series.
And Lionsgate is betting that Chinese cinema-goers that see The Hunger Games will also be more likely to see the Catching Fire sequel, should it also get approval for a release in China.
China watchers were likely surprised by the smooth entry of the Lionsgate blockbuster into China, given the film’s anti-authoritarian themes and the current politically sensitive climate in the country, following the recent debate over the future of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng who had fled house arrest and sought refuge in the U.S. embassy.
The Hunger Games release, in both dubbed and subtitled prints, will be executed by The China Film Group and Lionsgate partner Talent International.
“China is already one of the leading territories at the international box office, and the launch of The Hunger Games in this key market is another sign of the franchise’s continuing emergence as a truly global phenomenon,” Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chairs Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman said in a statement.
The Hunger Games will be among the first major Hollywood films to be released in China under the landmark revenue sharing agreement announced in February that allows foreign distributors to collect up to 25 percent of a film’s receipts in China. Previously, Western distributors were allotted just 13 percent-17 percent of their films’ grosses in the country.
Although the approval announcement all but guarantees Lionsgate a huge Chinese opening weekend in June, the film’s final fate in the country may well depend on how it is received and discussed by the country’s legions of social media users.
Back in 2010, Avatar, the highest grossing movie in China ever, was unexpectedly pulled early from 2D screens amidst reports that propaganda officials had deemed the film’s domestic market dominance undesirable and its storyline too similar to a sensitive issue of the day: the forced eviction of Chinese villagers to make way for civic and commercial development.
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