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China Is Relying on ‘Green Book,’ ‘Harry Potter,’ and More to Revitalize Movie Theaters

China Film Group aims to revitalize the country's moviegoing by re-releasing a handful of blockbuster titles.

“Green Book”

Universal Pictures

China Film Group, the country’s state-owned distributor, is getting together plans to revitalize movie theaters as they start reopening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. All theaters in China shut down in late January to help stop the spread of the virus, but now some locations are starting to reopen as the country’s amount of new coronavirus cases decreases. Per Variety, the China Film Group is planning to re-release blockbuster titles to encourage moviegoers to come back to the theaters. The distributor’s plan includes four Chinese blockbusters: “American Dreams in China,” “Wolf Totem,” “Wolf Warrior 2,” and “The Wandering Earth.” The latter two titles are a pair of the highest-grossing movies in China film history.

The one title that will probably shock U.S. moviegoers but makes perfect sense in China is Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book.” The 2018 biographical drama is best known in the States for being one of the most controversial Best Picture winners in Oscar history (many critics have called it the worst winner ever). “Green Book” infamously prevailed over Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma.” Critics disliked “Green Book,” but the film was a blockbuster drama overseas with $243 million worldwide. A large portion of that came from China, where the film opened to $17.2 million and ended its run with a strong $71 million. An investor in “Green Book” was Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, the richest man in China.

Other films on the China Film Group list are “A Dog’s Purpose” (produced by Amblin Partners, which has the backing of Alibaba) and “Capernaum,” Nadine Labaki’s 2018 Cannes Jury Prize winner. The latter was also a box office sensation in China and grossed $54.3 million, a sensational total for a bleak drama about child poverty in Lebanon. The producers and distributors behind all of the selected films will forgo their usual share of box office percentages and donate all money grossed directly to the theaters themselves.

“These films will be distributed in a charity model,” China Film Group said, “with cinemas taking 100% of the profits. We recommend that cinemas consider doing charitable, free screenings, or low-cost screenings to benefit viewers.”

Variety also reports Warner Bros. is planning to release a 3D, 4K restoration of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” to help bring moviegoers back to Chinese theaters. The studio has not announced a release date, but movie ticketing app Maoyan has the “Harry Potter 3D” release set for April 30.

Theaters will continue to remain closed throughout much of the U.S. for the foreseeable future.

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