Earthquake epic sets new standards for Chinese cinema

A string of hits has led Feng Xiaogang to be dubbed the "king of the box office'' in China, but this week will see that reputation put to the test with the release of the director's most ambitious project to date.

The earthquake-themed epic Aftershock ( http://www.mediaasia.com/aftershock/), which cost 135 million yuan (16 million euro) to make, will on Thursday, July 22 be simultaneously released in an unprecedented 4,500-odd cinemas across China, and is being cleverly marketed overseas at the same time, with a digitally re-mastered version set to play selected international IMAX cinemas from July 28.

For his part, Feng has been his usual supremely confident self, predicting the film will reap more than 500 million yuan (59 million euro) from the box office and deflecting criticism of an excess of product-placement - something which has had Chinese netizens up in arms - as a financial necessity if Chinese cinema is to compete with Hollywood's blockbusters.

"Like it or not, product placement is and will be an important part of the Chinese film industry,'' Feng told reporters in Beijing.

Reviews following last week's premiere of the film in the Chinese capital claimed there were at least six major product placements in the film - pushing an alcohol label, a bank, an insurance company, a mobile phone, a car and a brand of sportswear.

Feng pointed to the impact on video piracy on the Chinese film industry as another reason why such trends would become more common in Chinese film, which only recently has become a commercial concern as cinemas spring up all over the country and box office takings have, on average, doubled over each of the past three years.

"We used to be able to make money from DVD sales but it is a dead end now,'' he said.

Apart from those quibbles over product placements, however, reviews have been almost universally positive for the film, which centers on the Tangshan Earthquake that hit Hebei Province on July 28, 1976 and then follows the lives of a group of survivors.

That will be welcome news for the people at IMAX who have chosen the film to be the first-ever non-English language production to be digitally re-mastered.

"When you combine Aftershock, this amazing film he's made, with the picture and sound quality of IMAX, you get something you can't get anywhere else,'' Don Savant, IMAX senior vice-president and managing director for the Asia-Pacific, told reporters.

For details of international IMAX theatres screening Aftershock from July 28, log on to http://www.imax.com

MS

 

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