Interpret Weekly: Asia Entertainment 11/01/2021

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer /
Universal Pictures
Bona Film Group Warner Bros. /
Legendary East

No Time to Die managed a $27.8 million opening weekend, clocking in higher than Dune’s $21 million China debut the week before. New COVID-19 outbreaks across the country have left more than 1,400 cinemas in 14 provinces ordered shut under the government “zero COVID” guideline. Closures even reached Beijing on Saturday, when certain districts called for temporary shutdowns. Together, the theaters represent over 13% of the national box office. Dune grossed $5 million on its second weekend, bringing its China cumulative total to $32.9 million.

On Friday, China’s Korean War epic, The Battle at Lake Changjin, reported a gross of $845 million, becoming the highest-grossing film in the world for 2021, surpassing the Chinese New Year breakout comedy hit Hi, Mom which raked in $821 million. Lake Changjin is currently China’s second highest-grossing film in history behind local title Wolf Warrior 2 ($854 million), which also features star Wu Jing and a jingoistic military theme.

A sequel entitled Water Gate Bridge is already in the works. Stars Wu Jing, Jackson Yee, and other main players will return to continue the story of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army during a different maneuver of the same campaign at North Korea’s Lake Changjin, also known as the Chosin Reservoir, in the lead-up to the U.N. troops’ complete withdrawal from the North.

The initial excitement and relief among Chinese fans that Dune passed government censorship was soon tempered by outrage that the initial release plan didn’t include an IMAX 2D version of the film. Hundreds flooded the comments section of IMAX’s official Weibo and online message boards last month to vent their frustration, while a few dozen took part in an email campaign to the company. It was unfair, fans said, for Chinese viewers to have fewer format choices than consumers in almost any other market and be involuntarily funneled into 3D screenings. Their basic complaints are consistent with audiences in other markets: the format leaves people dizzy, the glasses dim the image, the effects are distracting and unnecessary, and the tickets are too expensive.

Disney’s Jungle Cruise will sail into the massive market on November 12. Before that, Paramount’s Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins rolls in on November 5 along with Sony Pictures Animation’s Vivo.

South Korean cinemas are anticipating a boost from Monday (Nov. 1, 2021) as the country moves to a policy of living with the COVID-19 coronavirus. On the last weekend before the policy’s implementation, Dune dropped by only 12%, raking in $2.25 million for an 11-day cumulative of $6.86 million. Venom 2 took a steeper tumble of 45% during its third week of release, and added $1.65 million over the weekend. Since its Oct. 13 outing in Korea, it has accumulated $16.7 million.

Veteran actor Youn Yuh-jung, who earlier this year won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Minari, on Thursday received South Korea’s highest cultural sector medal. The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism gave Youn the Geumgwan Order of Cultural Merit during the 2021 Korea Popular Culture and Arts Awards ceremony held at the National Theater of Korea. Youn has a long and distinguished career, and was recently celebrated as the actor in focus at the London Korean Film Festival. Her debut film Woman of Fire, directed by Kim Ki-yong was recently restored and re-released.

After thrilling millions of viewers around the world, Netflix’s Korean original series phenomenon Squid Game has its sights set on awards season. The show has been nominated at the Gotham Independent Film Awards for Breakthrough Series – Long Format, while series lead Lee Jung-jae is among the nominees in the Outstanding Performance in a New Series category.

Sumo, which has studios in the United States and four other countries, said Tencent had agreed to offer undertakings to gain approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which assesses deals to ensure they do not hurt national security. Tencent had made a deal with Sumo in July, just days after China’s market regulator blocked its plans to merge videogame streaming sites, Huya and DouYu, on antitrust grounds.

The Chinese tech giant has dismissed many junior level employees from Ohayoo, a gaming unit it created in 2018 aimed at capturing some of the millions of users of its short video apps. An earlier report on Chinese website, which covers Chinese technology news, said that Ohayoo had asked 79 employees to go home or to apply for other positions within the company. The downsizing at Ohayoo has sent shockwaves across China’s gaming community, as it reverses ByteDance’s previous position as an aggressive hirer of top talent.

Tencent Games and developer TiMi Studio Group have announced Honor of Kings: World, an open-world action RPG based on the hit mobile game Honor of Kings, planned for a worldwide release on multiple platforms. A release date was not announced.

Kakao Games will command controlling stake of nearly 52% in Lionheart Studio Corp., the South Korean game developer behind the blockbuster mobile game Odin: Valhalla Rising, by taking over an additional 30.37% stake.

PUBG developer Krafton is set to acquire U.S. game developer Unknown Worlds Entertainment for a maximum of $750 million in its first major acquisition since it went public in August. Unknown Worlds – a game developer founded in 2001 – is known for unique creativity-based PC and console games such as the Half-Life mod, the Natural Selection series, and Subnautica.

Tales of Arise released September 10, 2021 and quickly became the fastest selling title in Bandai Namco’s Tales of series. Now, less than two months after its initial release, Bandai Namco has revealed that Tales of Arise has already surpassed 1.5 million. This would suggest that the latest entry in the Tales series sold approximately 1 million units within its first month on the market and approximately half a million units in the following months.

Capcom has announced that the latest entry in the mainline Resident Evil series, Resident Evil Village, has sold over 5 million copies, up from 4.5 million back in July 2021. Its predecessor, Resident Evil 7, has recently passed the 10 million milestone. Free DLC for Village is said to be on the way.

Kuaishou Technology, which owns a popular short-video platform, Kuaishou, as the major competitor to the Chinese version of TikTok in the market, said chief executive and co-founder Su Hua has stepped back from day-to-day business, will remain chairman but will focus on long-term strategies. Su’s stepdown joins several peers at other Chinese tech giants who have made similar moves amid a regulatory crackdown, including Pinduoduo Inc. founder Colin Huang, ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming, and Inc.’s Richard Liu.

Tencent will acquire a 6.86% stake in Kadokawa for 30 billion yen ($264 million), making it the third-largest shareholder after the deal closes. Kadokawa publishes about 5,000 book titles a year – ranging from novels to comic books – and also runs video-sharing site Niconico. The move follows Tencent’s 65.7-billion-yen investment in Rakuten in March, and signals its efforts to expand its investment portfolio in Japan as Chinese tech giants face regulatory scrutiny at home. Tencent’s stock price has dropped about 15% this year.

K-pop is set to return to live stages to meet global fans in person with Korean-born world star BTS to lead the pack next month after a nearly two-year hiatus as many countries across the globe are opting to live with COVID-19 amid rapidly increasing vaccination rates.

BTS will be the first to go offline as the seven-member Korean boyband is scheduled to hold “BTS Permission to Dance on Stage” concerts on Nov. 27-28 and Dec. 1-2 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.

South Korea broke ground for the country’s first and biggest K-pop concert hall ‘K-Culture Valley Arena’ in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, on Wednesday. CJ ENM’s subsidiary CJ Live City (CJLC) will build the center with 20,000 indoor seats on an area of 237,000 square meters, the size of 46 soccer fields. Its outdoor hall will be capable of accommodating more than 40,000 visitors.

The film censorship law, passed Wednesday but long-mooted, includes a punishment of up to three years’ imprisonment and $130,000 in fines for violations. The law gives Hong Kong’s chief secretary broad powers to revoke a film’s license if it is found to “endorse, support, glorify, encourage, and incite activities that might endanger national security.” The new law is likely to reinforce Hong Kong’s decline as a film and television production hub and push more filmmakers unwilling to self-censor. The law also calls into question the content held on internationally owned streaming platforms that have, until now, operated freely in Hong Kong. The likes of Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube have been offering their full services in Hong Kong, regional licensing deals permitting, and Disney+ is set to join them next month.