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The Banquet Goes Online
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Chinese director Feng Xiaogang's epic film The Banquet has gone online to continue reaping money after pulling in 100 million yuan (US$12.7 million) at the box office in two weeks.



The movie, together with its preview, music, dialogue, extracts and bonuses, were all available on the Internet before the seven-day national holiday began on October 1, according to a local newspaper report.


The shift from cinema to the internet could help the movie maintain its profit-making momentum during the holidays, when a few new movies will start screening across China, including Chinese action superstar Jackie Chan's new comedy Rob-B-Hood.


The Banquet is the third domestic movie to go online, following A World Without Thieves - also directed by Feng Xiaogang in 2004 - and The Promise directed by Chen Kaige in 2005.


"Due to piracy and distribution channel problems, the firt two - A World Without Thieves and The Promise - failed to make profits online. Instead they generated endless copyright lawsuits, " said Shi Zhong, chief executive officer of Shanghai-based Viewtoo Broadband Technology Co. Ltd..


The Shanghai company has bought the online distribution rights for The Banquet. Statistics from the company said that over 10,000 Internet users were watching The Banquet online at peak time.


Shi said the company is also trying to contact key Chinese portal websites and professional live broadcasting websites. "By uniting with the other websites, we hope to form an online cinema circuit."


"We will make a profit this time," Shi said.


The Banquet, starring actress Zhang Ziyi, has scored big at China's box offices following its September 14 debut. The US$20 million film pulled in 55 million yuan (US$6.9 million) on its first weekend in Chinese theaters.


Set in the Five Dynasties and Ten States period (907-979), the film is a loose adaptation of Hamlet, dramatizing the tragedy of an empress, played by Zhang Ziyi, who is destroyed by palace struggles for power and a doomed love affair.


(Xinhua News Agency October 8, 2006)

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