‘Karate Kid’ Update Breaks Down Some Chinese Walls

The Los Angeles Times reports on the filming of the updated version of the Karate Kid in China:

With more than 1.3 billion residents, China is both the world’s most populous nation and one of Hollywood’s biggest challenges, with borders to entry almost as tall as the Great Wall. China can be one of the biggest-grossing countries outside of the United States for certain films, even though DVD piracy is rampant and there aren’t a lot of theaters; “Avatar” grossed the local currency equivalent of $195 million, the most of any nation beyond American borders.

Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and Sony’s “2012” (in which Chinese ark builders help save the planet) were also huge hits in the country, and business is booming for Chinese movies too, such as John Woo’s historical epic “Red Cliff.” Total Chinese box-office returns surged more than 40% to more than $900 million in 2009.

If Sony made “Karate Kid” with a Chinese partner, it could be a part of that Asian gold rush, but the deal would come with some foreseeable obstacles, including possible government censorship.

Belgrad didn’t think long before giving his answer. “That was enough to say yes,” says Belgrad, who had long been fascinated by the country and had developed a “Sinbad” movie that would be set there. “It’s a fascinating place.”

The “Karate Kid” decision not only launched the biggest modern movie co-production between an American studio and China, but also opened up the film to government-mandated creative controls that ultimately yielded two slightly different movies, as Chinese censors asked that several scenes, including sequences of bullying and a kiss between two young characters, be trimmed. The geographic move also launched an internal debate about changing the film’s name to “The Kung Fu Kid,” as karate is a Japanese fighting style.

Watch a trailer for the movie, starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith: