Wanda’s Detective Chinatown 3 is scheduled to release on Jan 24 in the UK, by Trinity CineAsia.

2019 set a new record in global cinema box-office by reaching £32bn. China’s box-office increased 5.4% to £7bn and the total in the UK was £1.25bn. As the UK Cinema Association comments, “2019 was another exceptional year for the UK cinema sector, with admissions at their second highest level in 50 years and box-office breaking the billion barrier for the third year running.”

The UK’s openness toward other cultures enables it to have an advantage that perhaps other EU countries can yet enjoy. Various policy that supports audience diversity has contributed to keeping the country’s cinema sector lively. Indeed, the ethnic focused cinema-going market has huge potentials in the UK’s exhibition business.

In the past years, there has been an increase of Chinese-language film distribution and exhibition in the UK, both blockbusters and arthouse. There were at least 20 Chinese-language films released in the country, which also set a new record high in history. The UK is also the most active in terms of engaging with Chinese film culture than its EU counterparts.

The Fu Manchu fantasy is ended and a new era has come.

Between 2017/2018, there were approximately 106,530 Chinese students enrolled at UK universities. This large number of community has created a new group of consumers, which is evident in the buzzing food and drink sector. However, in my opinion, cinemas in the UK have yet fully explored the economic potentials. Although chains like the Odeon, Cineworld and Vue have been programming Chinese-language films as a way to capture this group of consumers, most other cinemas in the UK are still not used to programme Chinese-language films. Certainly not for smaller chains or independent cinemas.

Cinema is about inclusivity. How can UK cinemas fully capture this group of new customers? A suggestion is to be proactive, instead of booking films only based on traditional channels to predict receptions. Just as Christmas for most, Chinese New Year means a great deal for the community, including British Chinese. While not being able to spend it with family, watching a film that is in release in parallel with home creates a form of symbolic connection.

The day-to-date release of Detective Chinatown 3 can be seen as a global celebration of the coming Lunar New Year this month. In the US, Warner Brothers is certainly doing their best to capture as many audience as they can, by pushing its release to cover more than 150 sites. The film’s UK distributor, Trinity CineAsia is also working hard to expand its reach. DC3 will become the widest release in the UK ever for a Chinese-language film, including some cinema sites which have not screened such type of film before. It will be premiered at No.1 Charlie Chaplin Walk on January 24 (Chinese New Year’s Eve) and continue to be available at the same venue for at least one week, in the format of IMAX. In addition, the film will be released across more than 30 cities and the number of sites continues to increase. For a UK independent distributor to be head to head with Warner Brothers in association with Wanda, this is something worth to be celebrated.

In a genre of action-comedy, the Detective Chinatown series has become a repertoire for Wanda to participate in the box-office race during the Chinese New Year holiday period. The previous two films grossed over $660m in China alone and it is one of the most popular Chinese New Year series ever produced. DC3 is predicted to lead the box-office ahead of other films to be released in the same period this year.

For this reason, despite its festive novelty, DC3 is in a position to update UK audience’s knowledge regarding the latest contemporary Chinese culture, trend and attitude. While more and more UK companies are trading with China, film plays an important role in filling the gaps of missing public knowledge that the media fails to provide.

To support a good box-office of DC3 in the UK will also benefit its film industry more generally. A usual reaction from China is to question the size of the UK’s market. They underestimate the energy, innovation and opportunities that its cinema sector presents. The UK currently ranks the third in terms of receptions of Chinese-language film internationally, after North America and Australia. Improving this performance will mobilise more tokens for the UK film industry and its future negotiation with China.

Lastly, you may be surprised, as there is in fact a resemblance in DC3 that once appeared in Fellini’s La Strada.

This article reflects on the author’s  views only, not any organisation appears on this website. 

Update: Unfortunately, due to the recent outbreak of corona virus in China, this film’s release in both China and all other countries has been cancelled until further notice, as an emergency act to prevent further spread of the virus (by the author, January 24 2020).

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