China is becoming -- or already has become -- a major player on the global cinematic scale. This past weekend continued to prove this thesis, as the video game adaptation Warcraft crushed at the Chinese box office while struggling to find a summer-worthy audience here in the U.S. Duncan Jones' film isn't the first movie to lean on China to find financial stability, and now the nation's film industry is borrowing one of Hollywood's tricks... remaking a hit, with a regional twist.
Back in 2009, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds had a smash hit with The Proposal, a modern-day rom-com that cast Bullock as a corporate bitch who forces her male assistant to marry her so she can keep her Visa status in the U.S. (she's Canadian, which is odd, because they are never mean). The thin premise leads to romantic hijinks as the pair travel to Alaska to meet Reynolds' family. You can imagine where it goes. But can you imagine where it goes... in Chinese? Because THR reports that Walt Disney Pictures and the Shanghai-based Linmom Pictures are about to team on a Chinese-language remake of The Proposal, with a cast who will be revealed later this year.
It makes sense. The Proposal played with a universal premise that can transcend any cultural gaps. And the movie worked very well forSandra Bullock. At the time that it opened, the $33 million weekend opening was the largest of the actress's career. Ironically, she topped The Proposal later that year with the opening of The Blind Side in November of 2009, and that movie eventually earned Bullock her Oscar for Best Actress.
This sounds like it will be the beginning of a trend. As Bloomberg notes, Disney very much has a long-term plan in place to produce movies in China, perhaps as many as one per year, with Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger recently stating in an interview:
We have a lot of development activity right now to make Disney-branded films in China. We are very far along on this process, including developing ideas, concepts for films and identifying talent to make those films.
Studios need to. China's status as a strategic film playing ground will only continue to grow in the coming years, so it's smart for studios to position creative output that will appeal to this already massive audience. Do you know what's even smarter? According to BoxOfficeMojo, Disney's The Proposal never opened in China. Could all potential U.S. remakes made by Disney be of movies that never graced a Chinese screen? That could only increase the chance for success when the movie opens in China. Well played, Disney. Let's see how well this strategy works.