Feng Xiaogang accuses Wanda of sabotaging his film

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, November 18, 2016
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Famous Chinese director Feng Xiaogang has accused China's richest man Wang Jianlin of underplaying his new film in the latter's cinema chain.

Feng's new comedy "I'm Not Madame Bovary" hits Chinese theaters on Friday; however, the director soon found out that while it received an average of more than 40 percent of showtime arrangement in most cinema chains, Wanda Cinemas only arranged 10.9 percent of screenings for Feng's film.

A still of "I Am Not Madame Bovary". [Photo / China.org.cn]

Wanda Cinemas holds the No.1 market share in the Chinese film market, which means losing the support of the cinema chain will cost huge box office revenue.

The director thought this was intentional. In a long open letter to Wang, whose Dalian Wanda Group owns Wanda Cinemas, Feng wrote under the name of Pan Jinlian, the oriental equivalent of Madame Bovary and the critical monicker of the protagonist in his new film, pointing out that the real reason behind the feud is because Huayi Brothers Media Corp stole an executive from Wanda.

The showing arrangement was again speculated as a form of revenge by Chinese multinational conglomerate Wanda against Huayi, as the latter offered a CEO position to Wanda Cinemas' former executive Ye Ning, who accepted the offer in March. The move angered Wanda's top executives, including Wang.

In July, there was a rumor circulated in the industry that Wanda Cinemas was sabotaging rival studio Huayi's animated release "Rock Dog," when Wanda cinema chains only arranged seven showings of "Rock Dog" for presale statistics – only 0.3 percent of all films to be screened in Wanda outlets. Wanda later denied the accusation.

Feng said "I'm Not Madame Bovary" was an innocent victim in the rival companies' scuffle as he didn't even know Ye Ning, the former Wanda executive. The film actually was a project initiated by Beijing Skywheel Entertainment Co., but later was financially backed by Beijing Sparkle Roll International Culture Industry and Huayi, as well as Zhejiang Dongyang Mayla Media.

"Rock Dog" and "I'm Not Madame Bovary" were not the only cases. In previous months this year, 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 "Warcraft," produced by Wanda-owned Legendary Pictures.

"I'm Not Madame Bovary," adapted from a hit novel written by Liu Zhenyun, won the Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics for Special Presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 18 as well as the top prize of Golden Shell at the 64th San Sebastian Film Festival. The Chinese film industry has regarded it as the best film by Feng in years, while box office observers believed it would at least gross 500 million yuan (US$72.56 million) in Chinese market.

The Wanda vs. Huayi dispute has remained verbal, but it remains to be seen if it will eventually lead to a Chinese version of the Paramount Case, a landmark United States Supreme Court antitrust case in 1948 that decided the fate of movie studios owning their own theaters and holding exclusivity rights on which theaters would show their films. It had changed the way Hollywood movies were produced, distributed and exhibited.

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