Hollywood is eager to take a bite out of the Chinese market which can provide fast and huge box office numbers – even if studios are only recouping 25% with no ancillaries. But the learning curve on doing business there can be steeper than a ride up Hong Kong’s Peak Tram. Paramount‘s Transformers: Age Of Extinction, which through the first five days of release earned $134.5M in the Middle Kingdom, has certainly been aided by the deep ties TAOE has to China on the production side. But that hasn’t stopped transactional headaches from surfacing. The latest hiccup comes over the Wulong Karst National Park located in Chongqing. Local representatives of the UNESCO World Heritage site say they are considering taking legal action against the film. According to local media reports, Huang Daosheng, the head of the landscape management committee, says the park’s name was due to be featured on screen announcing the locale, but is not in the finished film. There also is reported concern that because the scenes immediately following take place in Hong Kong, it mistakenly gives the impression the two are nearby when they are actually over 700 miles apart. (Evidently the landscape committee has never seen Ronin – or pretty much any other movie ever shot in Paris — whose car chase scenes would have one believe that Montmartre is right next to the Seine…)
Liang Longfei, head of m1095 a subsidiary of TAOE production and promotional partner, China Movie Channel, told local press that Wulong delayed payment to Paramount for five months in what is understood to be a product placement deal worth about $1M. That, he said, resulted in “production time being very limited” and further led to a misunderstanding with the non-Chinese production team which was working under high pressure, China.org reported. Wulong Park’s Huang is in Beijing to discuss the issue with m1095, and said, “If the result is not satisfactory, we will file a lawsuit.” Paramount has yet to comment.
TAOE features product placement of about 25 Chinese brands and this is the second time a suit has been threatened. Just ahead of the movie’s release, Pangu Investments cried foul over its deal and said it would demand cuts to the film based on its dissatisfaction with how it was represented. The kerfuffle was ultimately resolved on June 24, and afterwards, TAOE production partner Jiaflix released a statement that said in part, “We do not understand why Pangu, which is presented in an extraordinary manner to the world in Michael Bay’s Transformers 4, would make such inaccurate assertions. Perhaps the answer is found in a court filing yesterday in which Pangu demanded $1.8 million and, if successful, would result in Pangu receiving all of the benefits and placement in the film for free.”