'Toy Story 3' China day-and-date likely

Early bow would reduce piracy

BEIJING -- "Toy Story III" will likely premiere in China day-and-date with its June 18 U.S. release, according to local media reports and sources familiar with the often-complicated, Sino-U.S. film import and distribution negotiations.

The Disney-Pixar sequel could even open in China two days early, on June 16, in both 3D and IMAX 3D versions, Chinese news portal Sina.com reported last week.

On Monday, neither spokesmen for importer the China Film Group, nor Disney officials would confirm if either date was correct. But sources said "Toy Story" was sure to open during that week.

Theatrical release dates in China typically are tough to pin down as state-run CFG often keeps distributors guessing and sometimes switches release dates on imports late in the game, blessing its own or other locally-made films with slots around key holiday weekends.

"Toy Story" appears set to open during the June 12-20 Shanghai International Film Festival when moviegoing will be high on weekend agendas in China's biggest city. However, it will be competing with soccer-mad China's World Cup viewing on television and the ongoing World Expo 2010, also being held in Shanghai.

Neither of the two previous "Toy Story" films played in China, but both are available widely, in pirated versions on DVD and on the Internet, complete with subtitling and Chinese-language voiceovers.

A rise in middle class income and a blossoming moviegoing habit has made China the No. 2 boxoffice marketplace for several recent Hollywood pictures, including "Avatar," which grossed over 1.3 billion yuan ($190 million), or about 15% of its global take, here.

The original "Toy Story" was released in America in Nov. 1995, and eventually grossed $358 million around the world. "Toy Story II" followed in Nov. 1999 taking in an even greater $486 million.

China limits to 20 per year the number of foreign films it imports on a revenue-sharing basis. Recently, 3D and Imax films have avoided this cap, but Hollywood lobby the Motion Picture Assn. is trying still to widen the studios' access to the world's fastest growing movie market.
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