International Update from China

BEIJING, March 7 (Xinhuanet) — China’s distributor of fantasy epic “Narnia” is expecting the film to record healthy box office profits when it is released on Wednesday, after it won the Oscar for “Best Make-up” on Sunday.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is based on the second installment of C. S. Lewis’s children’s literary classic series “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

The story follows four siblings who leave London during the Blitz of World War II to stay at a country house owned by an old professor. While playing hide-and-seek they stumble on the wintry mythical world of Narnia through a magic wardrobe. Led by a Christ-like lion they are enlisted in the battle against an evil white witch, who has condemned Narnia to perpetual winter.

The 180-million-U.S.-dollar film, directed by New Zealander Andrew Adamson, one of the directors of the first two “Shrek” movies, has grossed 650 million U.S. dollars worldwide since its release in North America and Europe last December.

The China Film Group Corporation has launched 386 copies nationwide, Weng Li, deputy manager of the film exhibition and distribution arm of corporation, told Xinhua on Tuesday, adding that he estimates ticket sales to be at least 60 million yuan (about 7.5 million U.S. dollars) on the Chinese mainland.

Weng said, “We hope the film will gather a good momentum in China after winning the Oscar.”

In comparison with to other Hollywood fantasy epics, Chinese reviewers say “Narnia” has more fantasy than “The Lord of Rings” trilogy and is designed for a wider age range than the “Harry Potter” series.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” grossed nearly 75 million yuan (9.4 million U.S. dollars) in the Chinese mainland,while “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” generated more than 93million yuan (close to 12 million U.S. dollars) and “King Kong” earned 100.3 million yuan (close to 13 million U.S. dollars).

On March 5 Hollywood local time, “Narnia” was picked for the best makeup at the 78th annual Academy Awards, which also invigorated Weng, who said, “We hope the film will gain a good momentum in China by the chance of winning the Oscar.”

Although pirated DVDs of “Narnia” has been long available in Beijing, Weng said he does not consider them as a big challenge to box office sales.

“The big budget movie has a captivating audiovisual effect in a theater, which is not comparable with that of a DVD at all,” he said.

UPDATE: The Shanghai Daily reports that Shanghai United Cinema Lines began showing the mystic movie yesterday. Last month, the daily box office of United Cinema Lines made 190,000 yuan (US$23,750) in ticket sales– only one 10th of the highest sales grossed this year.

Zhu Zhongxiang, manager of Shanghai’s Paradise Warner Cinema City, said: “We never thought ‘ Narnia’ would be such a hit at the box office. It’s gone beyond our expectations. All the tickets for the evening show have been sold out as of noon yesterday. Today’s box office sales are expected to hit 100,000 yuan.”