Wanda sabotages rival studio's new release?

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, July 5, 2016
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A rumor is circulating through the Chinese film industry that Wanda Cinemas sabotaged rival studio Huayi Brothers Media Corp's new animated release "Rock Dog," which had its premiere yesterday in Beijing.

Singer Zheng Jun, director Ash Brannon and other executives and crew members pose for a group photo at the premiere of "Rock Dog," held in Beijing on July 4, 2016. [Photo/ China.org.cn] 

"Rock Dog," a 3D animation adapted from a comic book written by Chinese rock star Zheng Jun, will hit Chinese screens on July 8. The movie tells the story of a Tibetan mastiff named Bodi who grows up in a village at the foot of the Himalayas. Born to be a guard, he becomes interested in rock music and begins to pursue his dream. The film, which took six years to make, was directed by American animator Ash Brannon, who also co-directed "Toy Story 2."

But according to independent media outlet Entertainment Unicorn, China's media and entertainment tracking agency Entgroup showed presale and showtime arrangement statistics for the films that would debut on July 8, indicating that the Wanda cinema chain, though holding the No.1 market share in Chinese film market, only arranged seven showings of "Rock Dog" for presale statistics – only 0.3 percent of all films to be screened in Wanda outlets.

The showing arrangement was widely speculated as a form of revenge by Chinese multinational conglomerate Wanda against Huayi, as the latter offered a CEO position to Wanda Cinema’s former executive Ye Ning, who accepted the offer in March. The move angered Wanda's top executives. The Entertainment Unicorn reported that various sources also confirmed that Wanda asked its cinemas only to arrange one film from Huayi per day during non-prime screening times.

In previous months, Wanda already had a very low showing arrangement for two of Huayi's films, but Wanda arranged a stunning 67.5 percent of screenings for its "Warcraft," produced by Wanda-owned Legendary Pictures.

Zheng Jun, the creator of "Rock Dog," was asked about the Wanda issue at the premiere yesterday, but he said he didn't know if it is true. "I heard the story, and I have seen some statistics. I don't really believe it, and there is too much being said out there.”

"Rock Dog" will have English and Chinese versions, with Academy Award-winning actor J.K. Simmons starring alongside Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard and Lewis Black. The Chinese dubbing cast will have comedians Guo Degang and his son Guo Qilin, Yu Qian and director Feng Xiaogang.

Zhu Yuqing, a film expert, said it was too early to know if Wanda is sabotaging Huayi's film, as the statistics only show the presale arrangements and Wanda normally doesn't attach importance to animated movies.

Wanda has not responded to the story.

If it is true, it could be a repeat of the Paramount Case, China's film industry insiders observed, a landmark United States Supreme Court antitrust case in 1948 that decided the fate of movie studios owning their own theatres and holding exclusivity rights on which theatres would show their films. It changed the way Hollywood movies were produced, distributed and exhibited.

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