Interpret Weekly: Asia Entertainment 01/31/2022

The country’s weeklong Chinese New Year holiday period, always a bonanza for local studios and exhibitors, kicks off Feb. 1, and analysts believe a bumper crop of high-profile potential blockbusters could lift the market to unprecedented heights. Leading the charge is The Battle at Lake Changjin 2: Water Gate Bridge, the second installment in the nationalistic war saga. The first film was only released last September and went on to become China’s top-grossing movie of all time with $901.5 million. Other top contenders this year include drama Nice View, director Wen Muye’s follow-up to his 2018 hit, Dying to Survive ($451 million); and road trip comedy-drama Only Fools Rush In, from former blogger turned fan favorite director Han Han (his previously release, Pegasus, earned $256 million in 2019).

During Chinese New Year in 2021, ticket sales totaled a record $1.2 billion, with family comedy Hi, Mom leading the way with an eventual total haul of $821 million; Wanda’s comedy Detective Chinatown 3 wasn’t far behind with $685 million.

Keanu Reeves has incurred the wrath of nationalists in China after it emerged earlier this week that he will be performing at an upcoming benefit concert for Tibet. Some jingoistic Chinese social media users have gone so far as to suggest that Reeves’s recently released The Matrix Resurrections should be boycotted in retaliation.

Richard Gere has been banned from Chinese screens for years over his vocal support for Tibet, a fact that he has said caused him to lose movie deals in Hollywood, where studios previously coveted the growth potential of the China market. Brad Pitt also was banned for nearly two decades after starring in the film Seven Years in Tibet in 1997.

The original 1999 film ends with the narrator (Edward Norton) killing off his imaginary alter ego, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), and then watching as buildings explode across the city skyline, suggesting that his anarchist crusade to take down consumerist society has begun. When the film is streamed on local streamer Tencent Video, the climactic scene was excised and replaced with a blank screen showing the message: “The police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding. After the trial, Tyler was sent to a lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.”

The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure ran off with nearly half the weekend bullion at the South Korean box office with its Friday to Sunday haul of $2.68 million. On its heels was political drama-thriller Kingmaker, as local titles finally overthrew the long-running Spider-Man: No Way Home ahead of a public holiday. Most South Koreans will enjoy two consecutive public holidays on Monday (Seotdal Geumeum or New Year’s Eve) and Tuesday (Lunar New Year), meaning that the Friday to Sunday weekend was the first part of a five-day holiday season.

Cinema admissions in Japan increased by 8% over 2020, to 115 million. Box office grosses improved by 13% to $1.42 billion in the same period. But compared to earnings of $2.29 billion on admissions of 195 million in the pre-pandemic era, last year was still way behind. In 2021, attendance was 41% below 2019 levels, and box office gross was down 38%.

The highest ranking live-action film, at number four with $40 million, was the Arashi Anniversary Tour 5×20 FILM Record of Memories, a concert film of the boy band Arashi, who retired at the end of 2020 after a county-wide concert tour. The only non-Japanese entry in the top ten was F9: The Fast Saga, which earned $32 million after bowing out in August of last year.

Tencent, the biggest shareholder in Nasdaq-listed DouYu with a 37% stake, wants to team up with at least one private equity firm for the deal and is currently talking to investment banks. Shares in DouYu, one of Tencent’s main platforms for game marketing and China’s No. 2 videogame streaming site, surged as much as 17.6% on the news, closing 14% higher on Thursday.

In the first quarter of 2022, the company will continue to carry out mass layoffs. The overall number of personnel, which is around 4,000 currently, is expected to further decrease and the labor costs will be reduced accordingly. Perfect World released its 2021 annual performance on January 21. It is estimated that the net profit attributable to shareholders of the listed company will be 350-390 million yuan ($54.99 million-$61.27 million) in 2021, down 77.40%-74.81% year-on-year.

The company will incorporate blockchain technology into its mobile games, and its game developing subsidiary Netmarble F&C will apply blockchain technology via digital content, such as web comics and fiction. E-commerce business is also to be added for blockchain ecosystem development.

This foray into the metaverse industry will begin through its flagship casual game Everybody’s Marble. The game company is preparing to launch Everybody’s Marble: Metaworld, a sequel that allows players to construct buildings and trade real estate in a virtual world with NFTs applied for authenticating the digital works. Players will also be able to convert virtual money earned in the mobile game into real cash.

The release of the latest expansion, Endwalker, on November 19, 2021 led to massive queues to log into game servers that were so long and led to the game being so congested in December that Square Enix suspended the sale of digital versions of the game. Server congestion is finally evening out as players progress through the game and additional servers are brought on.

Tencent updated QQ this month and the new version, which was traditionally a chat app, includes parts of video game engine Unreal Engine. The update coincided with Tencent’s launch of a new feature on the app called Super QQ Show, which is a 3D interactive space where users can socialize, watch shows, and play games. The move also signals Tencent’s determination to revitalize QQ, its second-most popular messaging platform after WeChat with 590 million monthly active users, after it lost relevance amid a broad move by Chinese netizens to short video and new platforms in recent years.

Korea’s pop culture, often referred to as ‘Hallyu’ or the Korean wave, notched up exports worth 11.9 billion USD in 2020, up from the $10.25 billion recorded a year earlier. The upturn was particularly impressive in light of the fact that overall Korean exports contracted 5.5%, owing to the global health crisis. Among Korea’s entertainment sectors, the biggest export rises came from the publishing industry (61.1%), followed by film at 43% (buoyed by the smash success of Parasite), webtoon (36.3%), broadcasting (28.5%), and gaming (23.1%).

The park is being built within the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park, near Nagoya in Central Japan on a site that is 494 acres. That puts it about three hours from downtown Tokyo by train. The park will eventually have five themed areas. The section based on My Neighbor Totoro will be the first to open. Two more areas — one themed around Princess Mononoke, the tale of a girl raised by wolves in a forest, and another inspired by Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle — will open next year.

South Korea’s antitrust agency has realigned the ICT task force team to toughen its watch over multinational and domestic platform and streaming services in line with their ever-enlarging proliferation.

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) Thursday announced its new digital market response team with expanded roles and responsibility. The previous ICT task force team that formed in November 2019 has imposed sanctions against Google’s market power abuse and Naver’s shopping and video search algorithm manipulation for favoring affiliated content and products.

China Media Group has launched CCTV-8K, an 8K ultra-high-definition TV channel, to broadcast the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Other media novelties this year include Kuaishou, a short video and live-streaming platform, being set as an official broadcast partner. Kuaishou claims more than a billion downloads of its app and to be catching fierce rival Bytedance.