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"I" likely to release in nearly 5000 screens in China

Written By Chiyaan Vikram on Saturday, January 24, 2015 | 9:23 AM

Vikram starrer I is getting ready for a big China release sometime during Chinese New Year. The film which released worldwide on Pongal day in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi has netted Rs 137 Crore in all three languages put together. Of course 75% of the collections has come from the Tamil original version.

I has been making waves ever since it started its shoot three years back. It was touted as India’s most expensive film with producer Aascar Ravichandran claiming it cost Rs 175 Crore. But director Shankar put it at a more realistic figure of around Rs 100 Crore. Nearly one third of I has been shot in China. It was the first Indian film to be shot extensively in Chinese locations for nearly 50 days. Earlier Akshay Kumar’s From Chandini Chowk to China was shot in China for a few days. Recently two Indian films Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots (2009) and Dhoom 3(2013) were released in China.

These two films were lucky to get a China release after censorship restrictions and to get into 50 foreign films a year quota followed by the country. From early 1990’s China opened up to Hollywood and the government put in place restrictions that, even today, allow only 50 foreign films to be shown every year, a quota usually filled by Hollywood. Remember China is the biggest market for Hollywood films outside of US. Among the two 3 Idiots which released in China three years after its India release was a hit. In the first two weeks of its release the film raked in Rs. 11 crore at the Chinese box office, according to trade reports, a rare success.

The success of 3 Idiots made the state run China Film Group to bring Dhoom 3 to China. It released on July 25, 2014 and made $ 2.65 million in its first week, according to the Chinese box office and featured at number nine in China Top Ten for the week.

However Dhoom 3 was considered to be below average by the Chinese trade. Ananth Krishnan, The Hindu correspondent based in Beijing wrote: “The view in China, however, was that Dhoom-3 performance was underwhelming in comparison to usual China Film Group releases — which are backed by the government — and the performance of low budget domestic films that made more in a single day then Dhoom 3 did in a week.”

The trade buzz is that Dhoom 3 was not properly marketed in China, but there is a huge untapped Chinese film market for Indian mass films with romance and action. Says Ramji of Travel Masters, the leading south Indian film shoot tour operator in overseas markets: “I feel I has huge potential to work big in China, as nearly 35% of the film has been shot there and it has romance and action two key elements for Chinese mass market.” Ramji and his China associate Cheng Jiong Song are planning a big release of I in China.

Ramji had assisted Shankar and his I unit and made all arrangements in China during their shoot in the country. Ramji explains: “ I is the first Indian film which shot successfully for nearly 50 days in China. Now we have applied for a commercial release in China probably for Chinese New Year through official channels.” Ramji says the film will be edited to a shorter length (I running time is 3 hours 10 minutes) to suit the Chinese market and they are looking at a 5000 screen release. They are also planning a big China premiere of the film.

If I succeed at China box-office, it will pave way for more Bollywood and Kollywood action extravaganzas to get into the highly lucrative market. It comes at a time when the first Sino-India joint film production with Jackie Chan as hero is slated to go on the floors in the coming months. This will be the first co-production film venture between the two countries under the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on audio-visual cooperation signed during President Xi Jinping’s India visit . All this has given Indian movie houses renewed hope of penetrating the cash rich but challenging Chinese market.

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