Local China Producer Begs Exhibitors to Fend off ‘Pirates’

“Please, please, give local films a little more space, don’t let local films die at the starting line,” Tiny Times producer Ann An pleaded with exhibitors on Friday.

Increased competition from foreign films is starting to rankle local filmmakers, with one prominent producer pleading with exhibitors to not “let local films die at the starting line.”

Ann An, the renowned producer of the hugely successful Tiny Times film franchise, took to Chinese social media on Friday calling on Chinese exhibitors to limit screenings of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales to free up space for her film Edge of Innocence.

In a Weibo post addressed to her “exhibitor friends across the country,” Ann, whose Chinese name is An Xiaofen and who is the founder of Desen International Media, pleaded with exhibitors not to let “local films die at the starting line.”

An’s film Edge of Innocence is set to receive only 5.83 percent of total screens on Saturday when it debuts, with foreign films Pirates taking 57.43 percent and Bollywood film Dangal taking 18.78 percent on Saturday, according to box-office monitoring site Mtime. Other local films debuting on Saturday include God Of War and Didi’s Dreams.

“With this huge gap, domestic films are doomed. If you reduced Pirates’ screen time a bit it wouldn’t affect its box office one bit, and freeing up more screen time will allow local films to survive,” An wrote in a Weibo post that was picked up by local media.

“Please, please,” pleaded An, “give local films a little more space, don’t let local films die at the starting line.”

An is not the first Chinese producer to complain about limited screenings for local films. In a particularly notable case last year, respected producer Fang Li live-streamed himself on his knees begging theater owners nationwide to arrange more screenings of Song of the Phoenix.

But An is no independent or arthouse filmmaker. Best known for her role as a producer on the critically panned but wildly popular Tiny Times series, her other credits include Full Circle, Ip Man, and Ip Man 2.

Based on the 1985 book of the same name by Japanese writer Soji Shimada, Edge Of Innocence follows a 19-year-old man who falls in love with a young woman who killed his father in a traffic accident.

Directed by Taiwan director Chang Jungchi, the upcoming film stars young actor Huang Zitao and actresses Yang Caiyu and Li Meng.

Edge Of Innocence was originally meant to hit screens on July 8, 2016, before being moved to May 27 this year. The film’s production was hit with multiple delays, with actors being replaced and scenes requiring reshoots.

China’s new film law states that local theater operators “should ensure that domestic [Chinese] films’ screening time is no less than two-thirds of the annual screening time of all films.”

The law further buttresses China’s existing quota on foreign film imports, which has traditionally restricted the China market to just 34 international movies per year on revenue-sharing terms.

Many analysts expect the annual quota of 34 foreign films allowed into China to be widened this year and officials have been warning of this possibility for months. Late last year, China Film Bureau chief Zhang Hongsen warned the country’s film industry to prepare for competition from more foreign films entering the market in the near future.

In August this year, a delegation of U.S. lawmakers is due to arrive in China to push for more foreign films — especially Hollywood films — to be imported under revenue-sharing terms.

Even without an official lifting of the quota, local filmmakers are set to face strong competition from foreign films in June with Wonder Woman, Alien: Covenant, Transformers 5, The Mummy, and The Lost City of Z all hitting screens.