It’s been two years since China passed Japan to become the world’s No. 2 box office territory, and Columbia Pictures is making a big push to raise its profile there. The company said today that it has sealed partnership deals with Chinese filmmakers and companies to expand its local-language production in the planet’s most populous country. The first project on tap is The Monk, a martial arts action from Palme d’Or-winning director Chen Kaige, which is shooting on location in Hebei Province. Sony Pictures Releasing International plans a summer 2015 bow for the Chen Hong-produced pic, which follows a young monk who is forced to leave his impoverished monastery and must rely on his extraordinary martial arts skills to survive on the outside. He comes across a rare book about a lost martial art — a book coveted by a sinister father and son who will go to any lengths to obtain it. New Classics Media will distribute The Monk in China. The pic marks Columbia’s second recent production in Mainland China, following the upcoming Gone With The Bullets, Jiang Wen’s follow-up to his 2010 action comedy Let The Bullets Fly, which made $140M worldwide.
Columbia also is collaborating with New Classics for a Chinese remake of the 1997 romantic comedy My Best Friend’s Wedding, which is in development with an eye toward a December start date. The studio also is in negotiations to release director Jin-gyo Cho’s romantic drama Summer Has Tears with Chinese partner Ruyi Media. Production on the pic is expected to start in the second half of the year..
“Columbia Pictures is reemphasizing our long-established commitment to Chinese local-language production,” company president Doug Belgrad said. “We are delighted to be collaborating with such world-class filmmakers as Chen Kaige and Jiang Wen, as well as partnering with esteemed Chinese production companies like New Classics Media, as we ramp up our activity in China.”