Hollywood Films Jockeying for 2017 China Releases

The line is already forming for foreign films keen to get in early on China’s current quota of 34 imported films per year.

With Hollywood films already exceeding the annual China import quota by six, movies are lining up early to get release dates in the first quarter of 2017.

The following is a very tentative list of films that are at least trying to convince Chinese film officials to let them in. There’s a bit of buzz about all of them in industry press and entertainment news. Some are even starting to push out a bit of Chinese-language marketing, which is always a promising sign.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (侠盗一号:星球大战外传)
It’s got Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen and Beijinger Jiang Wen in it. They have to let it in, right? Expect to see this in cinemas at the start of next year – it’s probably too late for it to secure a day-and-date release with North America, where it comes out on December 16.

Logan (金刚狼3)
Hugh Jackman has become somewhat of a China-hand over the years having been here a bunch of times to work and promote his films. He’s also got at least one Mandarin song in his repertoire which always goes down well.

Ghost In The Shell (攻壳机动队)
 Scarlett Johansson snuck in and out of China just last week to attend the Tmall 11:11 Global Shopping Festival gala in Shenzhen and to shill for Huawei mobile phones. Imagine the product placement opportunities in Ghost In The Shell! It’s also Johansson’s second recent film shot in a Greater China location: the story takes place in a Blade Runner-like, futuristic Hong Kong, following up on Lucy, which was set and shot largely in Taipei.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (生化危机6) 
Chinese star Li Bingbing was in Resident Evil: Retribution, the previous installment of this Japanese video game franchise. Maybe she can hook them up with some guanxi and get the film onto Chinese cinema screens. Produced by a German company, this film may get an easier release by not being considered a Hollywood movie.

Sing (欢乐好声音) 
If there’s been one clear trend this year, it’s that Chinese film officials can’t get enough cutesy animal animations. From The Angry Birds Movie to Kung Fu Panda, Zootopia, Finding Dory, The Secret Life of Pets and Storks, Chinese theaters started to resemble a veritable menagery in 2016. Surely this one can weasel it’s way in too.

Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets (星际特工:千星之城)
Chinese-Canadian former K-pop star Kris Wu is in this one so you can bet your bottom dollar it will screen in China. Even if it lands on Rotten Tomatoes with a splat, that means Chinese distributors can buy it low, pull off a bit of clever marketing and really make bank. Mind you, it could be good. Director Luc Besson tends to know what’s up.

Thor: Ragnarök (雷神3:诸神的黄昏)
If you’ve seen Doctor Strange you’ll know there’s reason we might be seeing Thor again. They wouldn’t go and let down Chinese audiences would they?

A lot of this could change during the year. The revenue-sharing import quota is due to be renegotiated in February, although with a new US administration that has made trade with China an issue during the campaign, that number may or may not increase. However, considering that as of this writing 40 imported films will hit Chinese cinema screens before the end of the year, due more to lower box office sales than any cinematic olive branch, it’s certainly possible that these and more films will see release.

— A version of this article originally appeared on the Beijinger