'Killers' to close Shanghai fest Sunday

Signals pic will be one of few foreign films in China this year

DMG, a Chinese-American media company, and Lionsgate have managed to get "Killers" slotted as the Shanghai International Film Festival's closing-night film on Sunday.

The inclusion of the action pic, which stars Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl, essentially guarantees that the movie will land one of the limited slots for foreign-made films controlled by the state-run China Film Group.

A SIFF spokesman confirmed the "Killers" closing slot in Shanghai Thursday.

CFG oversees annual legal film imports and controls the majority of foreign theatrical releases with Huaxia Film Distribution Co. It allows roughly 20 movies a year to enter the country on a revenue-sharing basis, and the quota system favors the Hollywood studios.

Last year, DMG, which began as an advertising firm 17 years ago and now has offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Los Angeles, worked to land Summit's "Knowing" onto the list. It was a first for Summit and led to the release of "Twilight," which was allowed in under a flat-fee system.

"Killers" will be the first Lionsgate movie to make it. "Kick-Ass" may be next if DMG and Lionsgate have their way; DMG partnered with Lionsgate on both films and is working to get that one on the list.

Despite having a population of more than 1 billion people, China only has about 5,000 screens. That number is expected to balloon to 30,000 in the next few years.

And while demand for Hollywood fare is high, the Chinese are not above attacking American film companies for the way they conduct themselves.

"They love American movies," DMG CEO Dan Mintz said. "However, there's also a signal coming from China: You need to know how to do business with us and how to handle us. The signal is that you can't just show up once in a while and expect things to go right. You have to know how to work the market and be committed. People know when you are committed or not."

The selection of "Killers" also shows that China is not down on U.S. films.