Jason Bourne, Universal’s fifth film in the series, debuted Wednesday in China to the highest gross of all previous installments. But after only two days, audiences in the Middle Kingdom are speaking out about how they feel exploited (and some of them physically ill) over the fact the film was released primarily in the 3D format. Fans of the franchise are blasting the film’s distributors for trying to capitalize with higher ticket prices on a film that doesn’t lend itself to 3D because of director Paul Greengrass’ hand-held camera work.
That has sent the film’s distributors — Universal Pictures’ China branch, China Film Co. Ltd. and Huaxia Film Distribution Co. Ltd. — scrambling to bring in 2D versions. Two film critics even wrote about how the film made them dizzy.
A film sold in 3D can end up grossing a 33% higher profit than 2D because ticket prices are higher — a fact not lost on local Chinese moviegoers, who are accusing the distributors of being greedy at their expense. The film has grossed about $18.7M in two days there.
Another reason, of course, is that 3D helps keeps films from being pirated.
According to local reports, of the 149 movie theaters in China’s capital of Beijing (which has a population of about 11 million), only eight are ready to present the 2D format. In Shanghai, only nine of 174 theaters have the 2D version, but those are said to be located in areas far outside the city.
“The 3D version is a rip-off. It’s been happening many times in China and must be stopped,” one of the protesters told the Global Times. Chinese moviegoers also have taken to social media to air their grievances.
The Universal Pictures China branch on Wednesday posted a notice on its official Sina Weibo account, saying the company is working on adding more screenings for the 2D version.
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