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For Wong Kar-Wai's 'The Grandmaster,' Weinstein Plans Subtitled Wide Release, Oscar Campaign

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood August 15, 2013 at 4:29PM

Wong Kar-Wai's "The Grandmaster," now being officially presented by Martin Scorsese, is getting an ambitious release from the Weinstein Company, taking the chance that subtitles won't be a barrier in reaching a wider audience. They have not had much access to high-budget prestige martial arts films since Ang Lee's spectacular success with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
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"The Grandmaster"
"The Grandmaster"

Wong Kar-Wai's "The Grandmaster," now being officially presented by Martin Scorsese, is getting an ambitious release from the Weinstein Company, taking the chance that subtitles won't be a barrier in reaching a wider audience. Moviegoers have not had much access to high-budget prestige martial arts films since Ang Lee's spectacular 2000 success with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

With all the recent major hits from the Weinstein Company (while French, silent "The Artist" was less foreign), one area that that hasn't quite replicated earlier Miramax success is subtitled films. In its heyday in the 1990s, the company transformed the normally limited market for foreign language pictures, starting with "Cinema Paradiso" in 1990 and then later "Il Postino," which both grossed over $10 million (a rare achievement today, even with higher ticket prices), and prestige successes like "Farewell My Concubine" and Kieslowski's "Three Colors" series. Miramax peaked with Roberto Begnini's multiple Oscar winning "Life Is Beautiful' (which totaled $57 million). 

But these grosses pale next to Sony Pictures Classics' achievement, "Crouching Tiger," which took in a staggering $128 million in 2000-2001 (adjusted would be $185 million at today's prices), which other than the anomaly of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," sold more tickets than any subtitled film in U.S. theater history. (Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" sold as many or more tickets than "Crouching," but it played the majority of its runs with a dubbed English soundtrack in the early 1960s.)

"The Grandmaster" also could be competitive in an Oscar area where the Weinsteins under the Miramax label once excelled -- the Foreign Language Film category. But if so, there could be a complication that could up this year with the change in voting rules.

This article is related to: Oscars, The Grandmaster, Wong Kar-wai, The Weinstein Co., Weinsteins, Harvey Weinstein, Weinstein Co.


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.