Lionsgate is expected to go ahead with its domestic home entertainment release of Air Strike next week, despite the cancellation of a Chinese theatrical bow on October 26 (Lionsgate is not involved in the China release). The WWII movie stars Bruce Willis and Fan Bingbing, and the scrapping of its Middle Kingdom date is believed to be related in part to the scandal that engulfed Fan over the past several months. I also understand that Grindstone will keep to its plan of a small U.S. theatrical release.
Air Strike director Xiao Feng posted to his Weibo account on Wednesday that “It’s time to let go.” This was a day after the man responsible for setting off the Fan scandal, TV host Cui Yongyuan, claimed the film’s budget was artificially inflated.
The movie was originally scheduled in China for August 17 but was moved to October 26 after the disappearance of Fan who was embroiled in a tax evasion scandal. She was scrubbed from the local marketing materials as the tax mess threw a number of her projects into question. She ultimately surfaced in early October, facing a massive government fine and issuing a public apology.
Xiao wrote on Weibo, “There were so many truths and facts but none of them could help us, and our innocence couldn’t be seen because so many haters defamed us. So many efforts become nothing… It doesn’t mean we give it up. It’s just so hard to walk through it after eight years raising of Air Strike. I apologize to everyone who supported me, to my friends and the crew, to the distribution team and audience who still want to see the film. I believe good will be rewarded with good, and evil with evil.”
Although Xiao didn’t expressly say the film’s release was scrubbed, local media Sina confirmed the cancellation.
Air Strike, which has also been known as The Bombing and Unbreakable Spirit, follows a group of Chinese spies and refugees who must carry a game-changing decoder device through the war-torn countryside during intense Japanese Air Force attacks. Willis is a U.S. Army colonel who trains Chinese aviators to battle Japanese fighters. Adrien Brody, Liu Ye and Nicolas Tse also star.
Last week, China launched a campaign to regulate the payment of taxes within the film and TV industry.