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Mei Lanfang biopic to open earlier
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Facing a fierce forthcoming box office competition, Chen Kaige's biopic of Peking opera legend Mei Lanfang will open one week earlier than originally scheduled.

Leon Lai and Zhang Ziyi are seen in a poster of "Forever Enthralled", Chen Kaige's biopic of Peking opera legend Mei Lanfang. [sina.com.cn] 

"Forever Enthralled", previously entitled "Mei Lanfang", will hit theaters across the Chinese mainland on December 5, a spokesperson for the China Film Group, the film's investor, announced on Monday.

"It's a decision we have just made," Weng Li said, citing box office competition as a reason.

"Forever Enthralled", starring Leon Lai as Mei Lanfang and Zhang Ziyi as his fellow singer Meng Xiaodong, has been promoted as a possible front runner at this year's New Year box office season.

But it faces strong rivals, including John Woo's historical epic "Red Cliff II", a sequel to a film that has become the most bankable Chinese film ever, and romantic comedy "If You Are the One", the latest offering from Feng Xiaogang, who introduced the concept of making a movie to be released to coincide with the new year.

"Red Cliff II" will open on January 15, while Feng's comedy will be released on December 22, the same month as "Forever Enthralled".

Weng Li said that director Chen Kaige had led his crew to work overtime and finished editing on "Forever Enthralled", and Chen was also happy to hear about the earlier release.

The film is highly anticipated not only for its star-studded cast, but also because movie-goers are eager to see if its style is a rehash of Chen's milestone 1993 film "Farewell My Concubine", which also centers around Peking opera performers. "Farewell My Concubine" won the highest honor at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, Best Foreign Language Film award at the following year's Golden Globes, and received two Oscar nominations.

(CRI November 18, 2008)

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