In an unprecedented alliance meant to stoke an appetite for prestige films in China, the online ticketing and marketing giant Beijing Weying Technology has acquired Chinese distribution rights to nine Wild Bunch films that are playing at the Cannes Film Festival, most in competition.
The Cannes films in the deal are the Andrey Zvyagintsev-directed Loveless, the Michel Hazanavicius-helmed Redoubtable, the Jacques Doillon-directed Rodin, the Lynne Ramsey-directed You Were Never Really Here, the Jacques Doilon-directed Rodin, the Sergey Lotnitza-directed A Gentle Creature, the Arnaud Desplechin-helmed fest opener Ismael’s Ghosts, the Kantemir Balekov-directed Un Certain Regard selection Tesnota, and the Raymond Nepardon-directed Special Screening selection 12 Jours. Also included in the pact is Racer And The Jailbird, which is in post for Wild Bunch. Deal was brokered by CAA.
While Weying has lent the ticket sale/digital marketing machine of its WePiao ticket booking platform to such commercial hits as London Has Fallen, xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage and The Fast And Furious, its aim here is to see these prestige pictures gain a foothold in China theaters. Weying will align with local distributors on each release, and the plan is to use the Cannes imprimatur as a quality stamp to get Chinese moviegoers to give these films a try.
The benefits could be enormous: While certain territories rise and fall at any particular time and make the financing equation on these small films a challenge, a growing presence for the films in China will help the business, going forward. In the past, China was assumed to be an inconsequential piece of the package because it is difficult to saturate the theatrical marketplace with imports and that marketplace is dominated by commercial studio films. Formed in 2014 with backing from a consortium that includes Wanda Group, Weying in 2016 co-founded the Nationwide Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas led by SARFT’s China Film Archive, which covers 100 cinemas in 31 Chinese provinces.
It so happens that Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval has enough films in Cannes competition that he will wear out his tux by festival’s end, and this saturation lent itself to the massive China pact. Rollouts of each film will likely be in conjunction with or following each stateside release, and an emphasis will be made to get filmmakers — and who knows, maybe Cannes chief Thierry Fremaux — to travel there to promote films that will need that kind of audience engagement to build into something.
“Wild Bunch is an elite company that continuously provides world-class masterpieces. We feel honored to have this opportunity to work with them,” said Dan Yang, SVP of Weying in a statement. “One of our missions is to bridge content with its target audiences and let Chinese film goers truly enjoy high-quality films through our sophisticated and integrated platform.”