China's Latest Big-Budget Sci-Fi Film 'Shanghai Fortress' Crashes After Liftoff

Published on 13 Aug 1919
movie news China's Latest Big-Budget Sci-Fi Film 'Shanghai Fortress' Crashes After Liftoff
The alien invasion film was highly anticipated after the $700 million success of 'The Wandering Earth' earlier this year, but it has been brought low by withering reviews and audience complaints.

Shanghai Fortress, China's latest big-budget science fiction tentpole, crashed and burned shortly after liftoff over the weekend.

The expensive film's flop is a blow to the Chinese industry's efforts to ramp up production values so that it can begin competing with Hollywood's effects-heavy blockbusters on more equal footing. After the colossal success of local sci-fi tentpole The Wandering Earth earlier this year &mdash it earned $700 and rave local reviews &mdash hopes were high that Shanghai Fortress might be the next big breakthrough.

Costing an estimated $57 million RMB 400 million, Shanghai Fortress was developed and produced over a period of five years. The movie is an adaptation of a 2009 novel of the same name, about a group of young people hiding out in Shanghai, which has become humanity's last redoubt against a devastating alien invasion. It stars Taiwanese actress Shu Qi and pop star-turned-actor Lu Han the latter previously Disney's marketing ambassador for the Star Wars franchise in China.

Shanghai Fortress briefly opened at the top of China's box office during the first half of Friday, but its ticket sales quickly plummeted as negative reviews and harsh word of mouth began to course through local social media. It earned $11 million on Friday, but crashed to $3 million on Saturday and $1.7 million on Sunday, finishing in fourth place for the weekend with $15.4 million, including previews. Meanwhile, local animation hit Ne Zha added $66.5 million during the same frame, lifting its total to nearly $500 million after three weekends, according to Artisan Gateway.

Shanghai Fortress is rated just 3.3/10 on Douban, the influential Chinese film reviews website and more than half of the 60,000-plus filmgoers who have scored the film gave it just one star out of five. On ticketing app Maoyan, where the scoring system tends to be much more generously weighted, Shanghai Fortress has a rating of 5.8/10, by far the lowest of any title now on release.

Online complaints about the film have come from all angles, including incoherence in its story, undercooked special effects and a poor performance from Lu Han, whose popularity stems more from his pop idol persona than his chops as an actor local sci-fi buffs were critical back when Lu was cast in the film more than two years ago. Fans of the original Shanghai Fortress novel were particularly vocal about their disappointment in the film.

Shanghai Fortress' director, Teng Huatao, responded to the flameout with a heartfelt apology posted to social media. "In the past, there were members of the audience who didn't like my movies. But their criticism was always aimed at the movies. But today I saw that some internet users are saying, 'The Wandering Earth opened the door to Chinese science fiction and Shanghai Fortress closed it'," Teng wrote.

"I am very sadden," he went on. "This showed not only their dissatisfaction with the movie, but that their hopes for Chinese sci-fi were dashed. As the director, I have ultimate responsibility for this. I am very sorry."

Shanghai Fortress was Teng's first attempt at the sci-fi genre. He is best known for his romantic films, like Up in the Wind 2013 and Love Is Not Blind 2011, both successes. 

The lead producer of Shanghai Fortress is Chinese studio Huaxin Media, a subsidiary of HS Entertainment. China Film Group, Tencent Pictures and several other local film labels also had stakes in the movie. HS Entertainment has been preparing for a public offering in China the disappointment of Shanghai Fortress could prove to be a setback to those plans. 

Source: Hollywood Reporter

"THE WANDERING EARTH" RELATED
Published on 16 Aug 1919
movie news China's Latest Big-Budget Sci-Fi Film 'Shanghai Fortress' Crashes After Liftoff

Disney's record-breaking year simply won't quit, as Toy Story 4 has officially crossed the $1 billion mark at the global box office. It's now the fifth movie of the year to do so for the studio. It wasn't all that long ago when a movie reaching that particular milestone was a huge deal. It's become a more regular occurrence in the modern era. While other studios can pull the accomplishment off from time to time, it's Disney that has been managing to do it far more than anyone else, and this year is one for the record books.

As of this writing, Toy Story 4 has just barely crossed the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office, by about $1.1 million. The Pixar sequel was released in theaters on June 20 and saw an excellent opening weekend take of $120.9 million, on its way to a domestic total of $421.8 million. The movie has also done exceedingly well overseas. What's more impressive is that there is still gas left in the tank, as the animated flick is still set to open in Germany and Scandinavia.

Easily the most impressive part of this landmark is it's the fifth movie to gross at least $1 billion in 2019 for Disney alone. Avengers: Endgame $2.79 billion, The Lion King $1.34 billion, Captain Marvel $1.12 billion and Aladdin $1.03 billion all also crossed that threshold. It's also worth mentioning that the only other release in 2019 so far to accomplish such success is Spider-Man: Far From Home, which has earned $1.09 billion so far. However, it was produced by Disney's Marvel Studios, even though it was released by Sony, and benefited greatly by taking place inside of Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Related: When Toms Collide: Hanks Gives Holland an Acting Lesson and It's Hilarious

The drop-off worldwide in 2019 for movies not released by Disney is steep. The Wandering Earth, a Chinese sci-fi flick, is next on the list with $699.8 million. From there, the drop is far steeper, with DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World at the number eight spot worldwide for the year with $519.8 million. Rounding out the global top ten is Detective Pikachu $431.5 million and Alita: Battle Angel $404.9 million.

Disney already broke the record for box office in a calendar year weeks ago by crossing $7.67 billion worldwide. Since then, they've only added to their total. Not to mention the studio still has potentially massive hits coming down the pipeline, such as Frozen 2, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Some analysts are now predicting the studio could pull in as much as $10 billion before the clock strikes midnight on December 31. It is painfully clear, as if it wasn't already, that Disney has an unprecedented level of dominance when it comes to delivering what moviegoers want to see. These numbers were provided by Box Office Mojo.

Source: Movieweb

"THE WANDERING EARTH" RELATED
Published on 29 Jul 1919
movie news China's Latest Big-Budget Sci-Fi Film 'Shanghai Fortress' Crashes After Liftoff
The feature debut of Chinese filmmaker Yang Yu, 'Nezha' is well positioned to overtake Disney's 'Zootopia' $236 million as China's biggest animated film ever.

Beijing Enlight's big-budget 3D animation film Nezha opened to a historic $91.5 million at China's box office over the weekend, smashing a slew of records for an animated film in the country.

Thanks to the huge start, Nezha ranked number two at the global box office for the weekend even though it was screening only in China. Disney's The Lion King was the only film to go bigger, clawing in $142.8 million from dozens of markets around the world.

The feature debut of Chinese director Yang Yu, Nezha's records for an animated feature include biggest opening day $21.1 million, topping Despicable Me 3, largest single-day total $33.3 million, beating Disney film Zootopia's $25 million and the top opening weekend overall $91.5 million, crushing Despicable Me 3's $64 million start in 2017.

Nezha proved especially powerful on Imax, earning $7.7 million from 618 screens &mdash the biggest animated Imax opening in China and the biggest ever July opening for a film of any category.

The film's social scores are among the best ever for a Chinese film. Its user rating on Maoyan sits at 9.7/10 and its score from Douban's notoriously picky but influential users is 8.7/10. Including its roadshow preview screenings in the two weeks leading up to Friday's release, Nezha's overall total was $102.6 million Sunday.

Given the rave word of mouth and current momentum, Zootopia's all-time China animation record of $235.6 million looks well within sight.

The film is based on a young male character from Chinese mythology, who appears in some of the country's best known works of classic literature, such as The Investiture of the Gods and Journey to the West. In Nezha, Yang has given the story a coming-of-age spin, as the young character fights to overcome prejudice and pursue his dreams &mdash themes that appear to be clicking with China's filmgoing youth.

Last weekend's top title, family comedy drama Looking Up, returned to Earth with $17.3 million in its second frame. The film, about an astronaut who reflects on his father's teachings while marooned in space, has earned $106.7 million after 10 days.

Bona Film Group's hotly anticipated firefighter hero film The Bravest scored $7.8 million in third place thanks to packed limited preview screenings. The film unfurls Aug. 1 and early word of mouth augurs a blazing debut.

Disney's The Lion King added $5.8 million in its third weekend. The global juggernaut appears to be running out of steam in China. It has earned a hehy $114.5 million to date.

Further down in fifth place, Beijing Culture's coming-of-age comedy Dancing Elephant opened to just $4.7 million &mdash a pricey flop for the hit-making studio behind 2019's biggest Chinese film, The Wandering Earth $700 million.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

"THE WANDERING EARTH" RELATED
Published on 27 Jul 1919
movie news China's Latest Big-Budget Sci-Fi Film 'Shanghai Fortress' Crashes After Liftoff

The action-packed web series “The Longest Day in Chang'an“ has taken the Chinese internet by storm, but American audiences shouldn't feel guilty if this is the first they're hearing of it. It turns out that even one of the summer's most successful series overseas can't find a stateside foothold among fans when Western media elects to almost completely ignore it.

“The Longest Day in Chang'an“ is a period drama that takes place during the cultural of the Tang Dynasty that follows the head of Chang'an's anti-terror department and a detective-turned-prisoner, who must work together to stop a mysterious army that has infiltrated the empire's capital. The series has been a smash hit in China and the Western viewers that have seen it&mdashthe series is streaming on Amazon Prime Video&mdashare similarly hooked, if the effusive user scores on Prime Video and IMDb are any indication.

Prime Video's brief synopsis of the series is full of infectiously pulpy excitement, but Amazon hasn't done much else to promote the series. Western news organizations haven't picked up the slack, either, as coverage of “The Longest Day in Chang'an“ is essentially limited to Chinese-oriented entertainment websites.

It's our loss, apparently, but the lack of American buzz for “The Longest Day in Chang'an“ isn't unusual. Although China has become an essential market for American studios to cater to in recent years, Chinese productions do not enjoy anywhere near the level of influence in the United States.

Take “The Wandering Earth,“ one of the most financially successful films of 2019. IndieWire critic David Ehrlich wasn't a fan of the film, savaging it as “borderline unwatchable“ in his May review, but the sci-fi movie grossed around $700 million earlier in the year and has only been outpaced by Disney films and Sony's “Spider-Man: Far From Home“ in China. Despite this, Netflix made practically no effort to market the film when “The Wandering Earth“ hit the platform in May.

The opposite is very much the case for American productions. It's not an industry secret that American entertainment companies of all creeds have begun increasingly catering to the massive and financially essential Chinese market in recent years.

Some good has come from this, as American studios are becoming much more eager to cast Chinese talent in high-budget projects, boosting representation. On the other hand, there are freedom of speech issues that stem from China's stricter censorship rules, which often results in American film scenes with strong violence, blood or homosexuality getting cut or ered. More generally, the blatant pandering to Chinese audiences in major films such as “Transformers: The Last Knight“ and “Skyscraper“ via nonsensical product placements or random references reeks of cynicism.

Regardless, the imbalance between Americans promoting Chinese films and television shows and vice versa is perplexing. Cultural differences and language barriers are one thing, but that certainly hasn't stopped Chinese audiences from devouring American films. Shows with the most mainstream of appeal, such as “Terminator Genisys“ and the aforementioned “Transformers“ movie, soared in China when American audiences turned their heads away.

Perhaps American audiences are less open to foreign films and television shows. But still, given the  success of “The Longest Day in Chang'an“ and “The Wandering Earth“ in China, it's befuddling that American companies aren't even making an effort to champion such projects stateside.

Source: Indiewire

"THE WANDERING EARTH" RELATED
Published on 27 Jul 1919
movie news China's Latest Big-Budget Sci-Fi Film 'Shanghai Fortress' Crashes After Liftoff

Aladdin has officially crossed the $1 billion mark at the global box office. This is an accomplishment that is far more frequent than it used to be even a handful of years ago, but it's still no small matter. Especially in a summer movie season that has seen so many movies crash and burn. Yet, Disney simply cannot be stopped and this is just another example of the Mouse House defying expectations and delivering an audience-pleasing hit.

Just ahead of the upcoming weekend at the box office, director Guy Ritchie's Aladdin remake managed to cross the ever-important $1 billion mark. That includes a $343 million domestic haul, which started with $116 million on its opening weekend over Memorial Day back in May. And what's more amazing is that the movie isn't done just yet. While it's certainly made the lion's share of its earnings, there is still a little gas left in the tank for Genie, Jasmine and Prince Ali on this magic carpet ride.

This win for Disney is all the more impressive when we consider just how much it looked like this might be an underwhelming performer financially, if not a disaster, in the months leading up to its release. Audiences were not responding terribly well to the marketing. Specifically, Will Smith's blue Genie really wasn't working out of context for audiences. However, the chemistry between Smith and Mena Massoud as the titular character, as well as Naomi Scott's Jasmine proved to be a winning combination. This also serves as yet another example of critics and audiences not seeing eye-to-eye. As it stands, Aladdin holds a not-so-great 56 percent critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but the audience score sits at a stellar 94 percent. Disney knows how to please moviegoers. Plain and simple.

Related: Aladdin Early Reactions: A Whole New World or Same Old Story?

To that point, Disney now owns the top three highest-grossing movies worldwide for 2019 so far. Avengers: Endgame is in the number one spot with $2.79 billion, good enough for the number one spot all time, having recently dethroned James Cameron's Avatar. Captain Marvel is comfortably in the number two spot with $1.12 billion. It's also worth noting that Spider-Man: Far From Home is right there with Aladdin, having recently crossed the $1 billion mark as well. While it was released by Sony, the Spidey solo adventure was produced by Disney's Marvel Studios.

Amazingly, Disney also owns the number five spot with Toy Story 4 $868.5 million and The Lion King has already amassed $713.7 million in just one week. So it will assuredly cross the $1 billion mark as well in the coming weeks. The closest non-Disney movie in the top ten is The Wandering Earth $699.8 million, followed by How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World $519.8 million. So, even though Tim Burton's Dumbo $352.9 million didn't work out as well as the studio had hoped, nobody in Hollywood is shedding any tears for them. This news was previously reported by Forbes.

Source: Movieweb

"THE WANDERING EARTH" RELATED
Published on 28 Jun 1919
movie news China's Latest Big-Budget Sci-Fi Film 'Shanghai Fortress' Crashes After Liftoff
Ticket sales revenue dropped 2.6 percent overall as an uptick in censorship and difficult business conditions battered the local Chinese industry.

China's box office slumped 2.6 percent in the first half of 2019, according to data released Friday by Asian cinema consultancy Artisan Gateway.

The market was rescued from a more serious crash by surging ticket sales for imported Hollywood films, the data showed. Revenue from imported U.S. films climbed 14.5 percent in the first half of 2019, totaling 12.6 billion yuan $1.83 billion compared to 11 billion yuan during the same period in 2018.

The results reflect a downbeat production and distribution cycle for domestic Chinese films &mdash a phenomenon many Beijing industry leaders have taken to calling the "cold winter" of the Chinese film business. Box office revenue for Chinese films totaled 15.8 billion yuan, down 16.8 percent from the 19 billion yuan of sales in the first half of 2018. Artisan Gateway's estimated H1 total includes forecasted sales for the current weekend, ending June 30.

Despite various challenges, China's box-office rebounded to 9 percent year-on-year growth in 2018. Turning the market around in the latter half of 2019 may be more challenging, though. 

China's regulators, usually deft at tweaking various market levers to reach desired outcomes, have painted themselves somewhat into a corner this year. For the past decade, Beijing officials regularly have highlighted China's galloping box-office growth as one of the most visible indicators of the country's economic vitality. The message has been hammered home so consistently that any slowdown, let alone a box-office crash, would naturally be perceived by the Chinese public as an alarming bellwether.

Compounding the challenges, Beijing instituted a crackdown on tax evasion in the local industry in late 2018. The cleanup forced local studios to pay out an estimated $1.7 billion in back taxes &mdash sudden bills that bankrupted many smaller companies, while leading to belt-tightening at even the most established studios. An aggressive uptick in censorship control over Chinese content in 2019 has rattled the local industry, while also preventing salable product from reaching the market see the blocked release of Zhang Yimou's One Second, or Huayi Brothers' much anticipated war epic The Eight Hundred.

China's regulators use various protectionist strategies &mdash import quotas and blackouts on foreign film releases during lucrative moviegoing periods &mdash to ensure that local Chinese movies maintain an edge over Hollywood imports in terms of total market share. But when the local industry has gone soft, regulators have tended to open the gates to more Hollywood releases to prop up overall growth and save cinema chains from losses. In 2016, for example, China allowed over 40 U.S. studio films into the market, compared to the usual quota of 34 titles.

The strategy of leaning on Hollywood product in times of need has been complicated by the ongoing U.S.-China trade war. So far, Beijing has resisted hitting Hollywood imports in retaliation for Trump's escalating tariffs on Chinese goods. But flooding the Chinese market with even more U.S. movie product isn't thought to be at all appealing to Chinese regulators in the current political climate. In fact, most Chinese film distributors have already stopped acquiring small- and mid-budget U.S. movies, for fear that they won't be able to get official permission to bring new U.S. product to release.

Regulators have encouraged local distributors to diversify the market with non-Hollywood imports as much as possible &mdash a push that is readily apparent in the data. Ticket sales for non-U.S. film imports surged 38.5 percent in the first half of the year, climbing to 2.8 billion yuan from 2 billion yuan in the first half of 2018. Standout examples included Lebanese art-house drama Capernaum $54 million and the rerelease of Japanese anime classic Spirited Away $45 million and counting.

But the five biggest releases in China so far in 2019 were all still Chinese or American, of course. They include: Beijing Culture's Chinese sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth $691 million, Disney's Avengers: Endgame $614 million, and Ning Hao's Crazy Alien $328 million, Bona Film Group's Pegasus $256 million and Paramount's Bumblebee $170 million.

Beijing regulators will need help from another surprise Chinese mega-blockbuster or two, or a trade deal &mdash or both &mdash to stave off a deeper downturn in the second half of 2019. 

 

Source: Hollywood Reporter

movie news China's Latest Big-Budget Sci-Fi Film 'Shanghai Fortress' Crashes After Liftoff
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