EXCLUSIVE: Kids in China will be seeing Penguins Of Madagascar nearly two weeks before kids in America get a chance to see the spinoff of DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar franchise. The film opens in China on November 14 — two days before its red carpet premiere in New York and 12 days before the film debuts in U.S. theaters November 26. That’s because the Chinese government sets the dates for all movie openings there.
Oriental DreamWorks, which works with the Chinese government, will distribute the film in China. DreamWorks Animation is a minority stakeholder in Oriental DreamWorks.
The film features the voices of Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom McGrath, Chris Miller and John Malkovich, but some Chinese audiences will not be hearing them. Some screenings there will feature their voices with Chinese subtitles, while others will feature the penguins’ voices dubbed in local languages.
Madagascar 3, which opened in China in 2012, grossed $33 million there, making it China’s third-largest animated film at the time. It remains in the top 10.
Back in 1999, during his bitter breach of contract feud with the Walt Disney Co., Jeffrey Katzenberg, now CEO of DWA, claimed his contract gave him a piece of all animated films he’d developed at Disney, in perpetuity. During the trial, Katzenberg argued that China, then more known for its widespread piracy than for its box office prowess, would one day be a major market for U.S. animated films — a claim Disney lawyers scoffed at. In Hollywood, it sure helps to see the future.