Interpret Weekly: Asia Entertainment 01/24/2022

China Film Co. Wanda Pictures Mandarin Motion Pictures

China Film Co.’s patriotic pandemic drama Embrace Again was the top film over the latest weekend, with a score of $5.3 million. Since Dec. 31, 2021, the film has accumulated $139 million. In second place over the latest session was Fireflies in the Sun, a Wanda Pictures-backed thriller, said to be a remake of John Q. It was first released in mid-December but bubbled back with a $4.4 million weekend, lifting its cumulative to $169 million. In contrast, The Matrix: Resurrections fell from a weak $7.5 million first place on its opening weekend to $1.85 million.

Death on the Nile, Kenneth Branagh’s star-studded sequel to Murder on the Orient Express, has locked down a release date in China. The Disney and 20th Century film will open there on Feb. 19, a little over a week after its domestic release on Feb. 11. Murder on the Orient Express was reasonably well-received and earned $34.6 million in China in the Fall of 2017.

Woody Allen’s troubled, three-year-old romantic comedy A Rainy Day in New York has been granted an official China release on Feb. 25. The film is likely to remain a niche offering in China, where Allen’s classic work from decades ago can hardly be said to be widely known among the general movie-going public.

Apple has tapped mainland Chinese director Zhang Meng for The Comeback, a heartwarming film that is releasing in time for the Lunar New Year holidays. It was shot entirely using the latest iPhone devices. The company’s Chinese New Year movie tradition is now into its fifth edition. Apple’s 2021 film Nian was shot by The Farewell director Lulu Wang.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Bong Joon-ho appears to have set his sights on his next live-action feature. Bong is in talks to direct an adaption of Edward Ashton’s upcoming SF novel Mickey7, with Robert Pattinson in talks to play the leading role. The project is being set up at Warner Bros.

Gamers aged under 18 are restricted to playing between 8pm and 9pm only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and statutory holidays, according to new rules introduced last August by the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) – and it seems that winter break is not an exception. Tencent’s pre-holiday warning to its young gaming subscribers reflects what founder, chairman, and chief executive Pony Ma Huateng described in a recent internal speech as the company’s resolve to do its job without crossing any lines, and its commitment to serve as an “assistant and connector” for the country and society.

NetEase unveiled a new studio from veteran Yakuza producer and executive director Toshihiro Nagoshi. Nagoshi will serve as CEO and representative director of the Tokyo-based developer. The studio has a founding team of eight other members, all veterans from Sega and Yakuza developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio.

Disney and Tencent have announced Avatar: Reckoning. Chinese studio Archosaur Games, which made World of Kings and Naval Creed, is on development duties.

Under the deal, Tencent and OCA plan to build an intercontinental esports tournament system, featuring Asian characteristics. Tencent Esports will provide experiences and tech support to help the OCA and Asian Electronic Sports Federation (AESF) host an esports event, “The Road to Asian Games,” in Asia. Tencent and the OCA will jointly promote the exchange of competitive sports in Asia, cultural exchanges among different nationalities, and provide education programs for players and practitioners.

Following Kenichi Sato’s announcement that he is stepping down from his position as president and CEO of the studio behind Bayonetta and Nier: Automata, Atsushi Inaba will be stepping into the role. Inaba previously worked as CEO of Clover Studio, the team behind Okami, before helping to co-found PlatinumGames.

PlayStation 4 production is now set to continue through the end of the year. Despite originally planning to quickly transition gamers from the PS4 over to the PS5, ongoing supply chain issues (even as the PS5 has been exceedingly popular) have prompted an extension of the PS4’s lifetime.

Sony said Thursday that it expected Microsoft Corp. to ensure that games from Activision Blizzard Inc. are available on non-Microsoft videogame platforms if Microsoft completes its proposed acquisition of Activision. “We expect that Microsoft will abide by contractual agreements and continue to ensure Activision games are multiplatform.”

Revenue at Chinese social-media giant ByteDance rose by about 70% last year to roughly $58 billion, slowing from a year earlier as Beijing tightened scrutiny over its internet sector and as an economic slowdown hit advertising sales. In 2020, ByteDance’s revenue more than doubled from the previous year to $34.3 billion, but over the past year Chinese officials have introduced data-collection and antimonopoly rules to curb the influence of the country’s most powerful technology companies. China’s leaders have criticized “the disorderly expansion of capital” and expressed concerns about the cybersecurity and social-stability risks arising from Big Tech’s control of the data of millions of citizens and their influence over everyday life.

Earlier this month, VFX powerhouse Dexter Studios revealed that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Korean film studio Megabox Plus M to jointly develop and produce Korean films and series.

The outfits will join forces to create Korean digital content and grow their in-house teams of directors and writers to develop intellectual property. In addition to partnering strategically to foster additional business through IPs, the deal also covers post-production services, with Dexter providing VFX, color correction, and sound services for future Megabox titles.

Korea’s CJ ENM, the Asian media giant known for backing projects like the landmark Oscar-winning film Parasite, has closed its acquisition of a controlling stake in Endeavor Content.

The entertainment company committed last November to pay $775 million for 80% ownership in the scripted production outfit, which will continue to be overseen by Graham Taylor and Chris Rice as Co-CEOs. The division has financed, packaged, or sold more than 100 series and films, including breakouts like La La Land and Killing Eve. Endeavor is “looking to produce more than 40 movies and series by 2023.”

The country’s top internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, recently told some companies that it would establish a new mechanism that requires internet companies to obtain formal approval for investment deals if they have 100 million users or more or have posted revenue in the previous year of at least 10 billion yuan, equivalent to $1.57 billion. The regulator notified some companies of the rules this week, which are still under review and could change. Following the notice, ByteDance announced last Wednesday that the company was dismantling the strategic investment team, which serves as its corporate venture-capital arm.