‘Iron Man 3’ Blasts Away Co-Production Myth

According to China film consultant, Robert Cain, the secret to the potential success of ‘Iron Man 3’ may lie in avoiding official co-production status in China. Although the official co-production label would have streamlined the film’s entry into China’s market, it would have also given creative control over to the Chinese government. The Wall Street Journal reports:

In ignoring the official co-production process, the film is challenging conventional wisdom about how best to tap China’s lucrative but tightly controlled film market. Over the past several years, foreign film producers have signed a number of official co-production deals in China under the assumption that such deals were the most efficient method for bypassing the country’s foreign film quotas, which the cap the number of foreign films the country can show at its theaters each year to 34 each year, provided 14 of them are filmed in 3D or fit the jumbo Imax screen format.

The 2011 film “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” a co-production between IDG China Media of Shanghai and Fox Searchlight, fell flat in both of the world’s largest box offices, making $1.3 million in the U.S. and $6 million in China’s box offices, according to box office database Box Office Mojo and the film’s producers.

Other co-productions have found success in China but failed to win over a global audience. Each installment of the two-part John Woo epic “Red Cliff,” produced by Lion Rock Entertainment and China Film Group, raked in more than 100 million yuan ($16 million) in its first week of release, according to media-research firm EntGroup. A condensed version for Western audiences, meanwhile, earned less than $700,000, according to Box Office Mojo.

The creators of Iron Man hope to win everyone over, so they’ve avoided over-playing any China plot for an easy entry into the market, said Mr. Cain. At the same time, producers have kept things friendly with China by shooting scenes in the country and featuring Chinese stars Wang Xueqi and Fan Bingbing next to Hollywood stars Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow.

As attention gathers around the upcoming release and reception of the third film in the ‘Iron Man’ series, Marvel Studios, one of the companies behind the movie, has released a second trailer for the Chinese audience. From The Hollywood Reporter:

The tweaked Asia-targeted trailer closely resembles the U.S. original, but offers additional glimpses of Chinese actor Wang Xueqi and actress Fan Bingbing, along with a scene of Iron Man taking flight amidst cheers from a group of Chinese schoolchildren in front of Beijing’s historic Yongdingmen gate.

Meanwhile, the Chinese blogosphere is rife with speculation about the film’s rollout in China, with unconfirmed reports stating that Downey Jr. will be flying into Beijing for a three-day visit from April 4-6, during which he will attend the film’s world premiere.

Jointly produced by Marvel and DMG, IM3 drew some fire when the film’s first teaser trailer was released in October and revealed no Chinese actors or China-set scenes. Traditionally, to officially pass as a co-production in China — a status which would allow the film easier access to Chinese cinemas and its foreign producers a bigger slice of box-office receipts — projects must include significant participation from Chinese talent and Chinese settings or motifs.

DMG declined to comment when the Hollywood Reporter reached out Thursday to inquire about the company’s marketing rollout for the film in China. But the Chinese micro-blogosphere was abuzz with excitement Thursday over a tweet from the Robert Downey Jr. Fan Club Weibo account “TeamDowney,” which seemed to suggest some insider information on the star visiting Beijing from April 4-6 for a world premiere.

See also Hollywood, China, & Freedom to Blow Up Tiananmen, which focuses on film censorship and China’s relationship with the Academy Awards and Hollywood, via CDT.

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