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HONG KONG – So Bond and Baggins might not be battling it out in China after all. After weeks of speculation about Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey being given same-week releases in the country, online reports have indicated the two films will be released nearly a month apart, with the latest 007 installment unsheathing his Colt on Jan. 20 and the Lord of the Rings spin-off unspooling on Feb. 15.
The Hollywood Reporter reported last month about both films being moved from their original berths in November and December 2012, partly because of the authorities’ desire to allow a clear run for mainland blockbusters Back to 1942 and The Last Supper. Subsequent reports have stated that the two movies will debut on Jan. 10, but now new dates had been revealed on douban.com, which contains one of China’s most visited and well-connected online portals.
Responding to the information, publicists from the Chinese offices of both Sony and Warner Bros – which handle Skyfall and The Hobbit respectively – told the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper they were still awaiting news about release schedules, which was decided not in the country but by the film-import arm of the state-backed China Film Group. The report also quoted a spokesman from the group saying they are also “waiting” for confirmation.
Released on both sides of the Chinese New Year holiday window at the end of January and beginning of February, Skyfall and The Hobbit will probably be the only two Hollywood blockbusters taking their bows on the country’s multiplexes during the period. Cloud Atlas, which stars Chinese actress Zhou Xun and counts among its co-producers Hong Kong’s Media Asia Group, is still being eyed for a late February opening.
Sony and Warner executives will be relieved by the latest developments in the light of the head-to-head clash between The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-man, which were both released in China on August 27. Competing also with Prometheus and The Expendables 2 – which were released the week after – the two superhero tentpoles secured takings of about US$55 million and US$51 million respectively.
Analysts considered the numbers as an under-performance for both films. The homespun production they made way for in July, Painted Skin: Resurrection, eventually took more than US$110 million during its month-long run.
The shifted dates for Skyfall and The Hobbit will provide Wong Kar-wai with a major boost. His martial arts epic, The Grandmasters, opens in China on Jan. 8, with its box office performance at risk with the presence of the two Hollywood hits. The latest developments will allow Wong’s film to have a fortnight to make a killing before 007 and Bilbo descend on its turf.
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