Interpret Weekly: Asia Entertainment 09/13/2021

20th Century Studios Rise Pictures / MM2 Entertainment Taiwan Emperor Motion Pictures / Tencent Pictures

The film added $12.3 million, taking its China total to $75.8 million. Free Guy already is Hollywood’s third biggest release in the country this year, trailing only F9: The Fast Saga ($203.8 million) and Godzilla vs. Kong ($188.7 million). Donnie Yen’s late summer box office champ Raging Fire continued to smolder amid the dearth of new content. The film added $5.7 million on its seventh weekend on screens, pushing its total box office sales to $185.4 million.

The film was launched on Chinese streaming channels on Friday, Sept. 10, the same day it debuted in U.S. cinemas and over HBO Max. Chinese film financier Starlight Media, which co-produced the film with Wan’s Atomic Monster and New Line Cinema, made the arrangements for the online Chinese outing. However, fans found the film, unsurprisingly, was censored, given its R-rated nature. Around three and half minutes of gory content was removed.

The flagship government-backed Chinese festival is typically held in April, but organizers postponed it until August, hoping that the pandemic would have subsided by then to an extent that international guests would be able to attend. But a flareup of Delta variant COVID-19 infections across several Chinese provinces in late summer forced a second delay, as well as the closure of approximately 30 percent of the cinemas in the country.

Beijing organizers said this week that they have committed to a new framework for an ambitious in-person program, running Sept. 21-29 at 30 venues around the Chinese capital, with 300 Chinese and international film titles to be shown across more than 1,000 total screenings.

Tse’s decision comes amid a time of heightened scrutiny of celebrities in China, both by Beijing officials and the general public online. There is no ban on people of Chinese descent with foreign nationality participating in China’s film industry, but such figures have been viewed with increasing scrutiny. Actress Crystal Liu, star of Disney’s Mulan, was blasted by online nationalists in 2019 for giving up her Chinese citizenship to become American, and Oscar best director winner Chloé Zhao received similar scrutiny after an old interview comment resurfaced suggesting she had a nuanced, at times critical, view of her home country.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings earned $2.63 million on its second weekend for a market share of 50%. Its drop from the opening weekend was an okay 44%. And after twelve days of release, it has amassed $10.6 million. But Shang-Chi alone was not enough to prevent the overall weekend from dipping significantly. Nationwide aggregate cinema business amounted to just $5.26 million this weekend. That was down 35% week-on-week and was the lowest weekend score for more than two months.

China has temporarily slowed down approval for all new online games in a bid to curb a gaming addiction among young people, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Thursday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The SCMP said the strategy to slow down approvals emerged after a Wednesday meeting between Chinese authorities and gaming firms.

Beijing last month moved to ban under-18s from playing video games for more than three hours a week in a tighter set of regulations for gaming. Gaming firms were told by the government on Wednesday to implement measures such as curbing minors’ hours of access to their video games to protect their physical and mental health and those that are found to have “inadequately” implemented the regulations will be severely punished.

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) revealed Wednesday that the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games will feature eight esports medal titles – Arena of Valor Asian Games Version (a combination of Honor of Kings and Arena of Valor); PUBG Mobile Asian Games Version (a combination of PUBG Mobile and Peacekeeper Elite); Dota 2, League of Legends, FIFA, Hearthstone, Street Fighter V, and Dream Three Kingdoms 2 – and two demonstration titles including AESF Robot Masters and AESF VR Sports.

Following the recent crackdown on minor video gaming, as of September 7, 64 enterprises have issued announcements to show their positive response to the new regulations, according to statistics by China’s Game Publishing Committee. In addition, many enterprises have also for the first time disclosed data related to minors using their services in this year’s semi-annual reports. Tencent’s Q2 financial report shows that individuals under 16 years old account for 2.6% of players, while those under 12 account for just 0.3%. NetEase predicts that the impact of the new regulations on finance will not exceed a 1% hit.

Peace Elite Professional League (PEL) announced that it will carry out compliance work regarding the age of its contestants. King Pro League (KPL) Competition Committee for the game Honor of Kings announced on September 1 an age limit adjustment for KPL, which requires players to be at least 18 years old before participating.

Chongqing-based Honor of Kings team QGhappy announced on Sunday that the team and its KPL franchise have been acquired by English Premier League (EPL) team Wolverhampton Wanderers (Wolves) esports division, Wolves Esports. The name of the team has been rebranded from Chongqing QGhappy to Chongqing Wolves. Chongqing QGhappy just won the $7.7 million Honor of Kings World Champion Cup (KCC) on Aug. 28, taking home $3.24 million in prize money.

The National e-Festival Competitions for Students with Disabilities kicked off on Sept. 7, resuming the annual contest which was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UK game studio, Firesprite, has become Sony’s third studio acquisition of 2021. Firesprite has worked closely with Sony in the past, including on The Playroom.

Bandai Namco released Tales of Arise on September 10, and the game has already peaked at more than 45,000 concurrent players on Steam. This comes as the newly released Bandai Namco title holds an 87 average rating on Metacritic (for PS5) – an all-time high for a Tales game.

The move comes amidst a call from authorities to rein in “excessive” fan culture. The crackdown began days after photos began to circulate of a customized Jeju Air jet funded by a popular Chinese Weibo fan account for BTS member Jimin. Decked out in photos of the star and a declaration of “eternal love,” the plane was intended as a crowd-funded birthday gift to fete his upcoming 26th birthday in October. Within hours, the platform said that due to online complaints, it would also place a month-long suspension on 21 other K-pop fan accounts, including four celebrating BTS, three related to Blackpink, three about EXO, and five tied to boy band NCT.

Disney said Wednesday that the service will go live in Korea on Nov. 12. Disney Plus will be available for $8.51 a month or $85.10 a year. The package includes Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and Star. The Star brand features movies and shows produced by Disney Television Studios (ABC Signature and 20th Television), FX Productions, 20th Century Studios, Searchlight Pictures, and more.

Kakao took to the stage of media conference APOS on Tuesday to tout the firm’s growing story-telling skills and particular strength in webtoons. The following day, the company’s shares plunged by 8%, as politicians from the ruling party called for regulations that would halt the dominance of platform economy leaders Kakao Inc. and Naver Corp. Kakao, which runs South Korea’s biggest messaging and social media services, saw its shares down by more than 11%, before recovering to an 8% decrease. Naver, which operates search and the Line messaging app, fell by 8% before closing down nearly 6%.

Disney+ Japan is expanding its offerings with the addition of content from the Star brand including Nomadland, Pretty Woman, and Glee. These additional offerings are set to go live October 27 and parallel a strategy Disney has applied in other international markets.

The action-packed detective story is produced by Studio Dragon, one of Korea’s leading production houses, and part of the CJ ENM group. This will also be the third collaboration between iQiyi and Studio Dragon, after My Roommate Is a Gumiho and Shooting Stars, which is currently in production. The status of Korean shows in mainland China has been moot for the past three years due to politics. The stalemate appeared to thaw earlier this year.