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Poster of Julia's Eyes and Faces in the Crowd [Photo: china.org.cn]
Two foreign thrillers hit Chinese screens today to fill in the time gap between blockbusters, with Ang Lee and Feng Xiaogang's new efforts on theater cards next week.
"Julia's Eyes," a critically acclaimed 2010 Spanish horror film directed by Guillem Morales, tells the story of a woman who is rapidly losing her eyesight due to a congenital illness. She sets out to investigate the suspicious suicide of her already blind identical twin sister.
This is the second time "Hellboy" director Guillermo del Toro acted as producer for a Spanish genre production; this time he co-produced the film with Joaquín Padró and Mar Targarona for Rodar y Rodar Cine y Televisión. The film stars Belen Rueda and Lluis Homar. This thoughtful and creepy thriller may remind audiences of Brian de Palma's early work. The film initially premiered on October20, 2010 in Spain, and was only chosen to screen in China until now.
Another one is "Faces in the Crowd," a 2011 thriller written and directed by Julien Magnat, starring Mila Jovovich, the leading lady of the successful video game adaptation "Resident Evil" franchise. The film was mainly shot in Canada and centers around a woman who developed prosopagnosia after being attacked by a serial killer. As she adapts to life with her condition, one in which facial features change each time she loses sight of them, the killer closes in.
Both films share the similar so-called invisible killer plot,,and the quality of "Julia's Eyes" is slightly better. They will try to make as much profit as they can before Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" and Feng Xiaogang's "Back to 1942" take over Chinese theaters late November.
Both films come from the particular buy-out foreign films storage, which means Chinese film distributors bought the film's releasing rights for all of China and will not have to share box office revenues with any foreign film studio, regardless of how much money they'll make.
China has enlarged its quota for revenue sharing imports of foreign films from 20 to 34 per year. The extra 14 films are so-called enhanced films made in 3D, IMAX or animation. The buy-out foreign films fall into a different category.
Generally speaking, buy-out films are low budget productions, independent and older films. But every now and again, some buy-out films may be Hollywood blockbusters, or can be turned into Chinese blockbusters and work magic.
For example, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" just hit Chinese theaters last month and raked in a moderate box office income, whereas "Part 2" of the saga is set to open in North America this weekend. The Academy Awards' Best Foreign Language Film winner "A Separation," an Iranian film, will also be screened in China today after debuting at the second Beijing International Film Festival held in April as an opening film.
The biggest miracle among buy-out films this year may be "Bait 3D," a China-Australia coproduction which grossed almost 150 million yuan (US$24.08 million) in only 20 days while the film's total gross in other markets of the world made up for a mere US$7.5 million.
Buy-out films can be bought at the low price of US$20,000 per film. But when Sylvester Stallone's "The Expendables" made a staggering 215 million yuan (US$34.53 million) at box offices in 2010, many Chinese film distributors and investors started to turn their gaze towards this desolate, yet high-risk, market. As many as 42 buy-out films were screened in China in 2011.
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