Sunday, July 10, 2016

No Sell Out: 'Rock Dog' Flops In China

Reel FX's newest, a collaboration with Mandoo Pictures, was quite an interesting one.

Rock Dog is the most expensive Chinese animated film of all-time, an American co-production. It cost $60 million to make and was pitted against an independent local animated feature this weekend. A lovely-looking traditionally animated film called Big Fish & Begonia.

The Brew reports that the picture - 12 years in the making - has scored the biggest opening weekend gross for an animated film in China, with a great $34 million. Rock Dog on the other hand fizzled with $3 million...

$3 million.

Why? How? This feature was designed with the Chinese audience in mind, but with the budget of a mid-scale American animated feature. Apparently something went on behind the scenes. Cartoon Brew ran another report: The cinema chain Wanda (the same conglomerate who bought Legendary Pictures) attempted to destroy the movie's chances by only playing it on a limited amount of screens. The article goes on to say that it was their way of getting back at the film's distributor, Huayi Brothers.

"... Huayi Bros., which poached Wanda executive Jerry Ye a few months back and made him CEO of its movie division. A deeper—and more problematic—issue is that both Wanda and Huayi own movie theaters in addition to producing movies. For example, Wanda screened Warcraft on over 65% of its screens because it owns Legendary Pictures, the American company that produced the film. The treatment of both Rock Dog and Warcraft are situations that are generally avoided in the United States thanks to the landmark 1948 Supreme Court antitrust case that ruled movie studios cannot own the theaters in which their films are screened."

Whoa... What a shame.

Rock Dog actually had my interest. It was another all-animals world, except with a The Gods Must Be Crazy-meets-rock & roll twist. The trailers weren't half bad, either. At this point, will it get something of a theatrical release in the US?

I have a feeling this one will go straight to home media or Netflix. It might get The Little Prince treatment, or some small distributor might pick it up. Hey, STX has a partnership with Huayi Brothers and it includes 18 animated features, so maybe they could give the film a wide but brief release. Who knows what will happen at this rate.

On the plus side, a traditionally animated film soared. Will it have wicked legs like Zootopia did over there? The Chinese box office continues to surprise and be unpredictable. The Mermaid and Warcraft are fine examples.

What do you make of this news?

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