By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 7, 2011 at 8:26PM
It was crucial to the filmmakers behind Zhang Yimou’s $90 million 1937 war epic The Flowers of War that the Chinese Oscar entry hit theaters in December soon after the December 16 Asian release of the most expensive Chinese film ever made. They are concerned about piracy. Many of the bigger players, afraid of the film’s intense Nanking Massacre content, had full year-end release slates.
So Wrekin Hill Entertainment and Row 1 Productions will release the film theatrically in late December in three North America cities—New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Producer Zhang Weiping is banking on an “aggressive release strategy” and an “effective awards campaign.”
Chris Ball’s Wrekin Hill released last year’s big-budget war movie, Peter Weir’s The Way Back, to unimpressive theatrical results, without much marketing muscle behind it; the film did not register in the Oscar race except for a makeup nomination. Other Wrekin releases include Hesher and The People vs. George Lucas.
More details and the trailer are below.
The film stars Christian Bale as a mortician masquerading as a priest in wartorn Nanking who steps up to protect a group of schoolgirls and prostitutes taking shelter at the Winchester Cathedral. Adapted by Liu Heng from the novel by Geling Yan, it is inspired by true events during the Rape of Nanking. Here’s our report on the 20 minutes screened for distributors in Toronto.
Chris Ball, President and CEO of LA-based film production and distribution company Wrekin Hill Entertainment, announced today that his company, in association with Row 1 Productions, have acquired the North American distribution rights to award-winning Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero) and producer Zhang Weiping’s THE FLOWERS OF WAR starring Academy Award® winning actor Christian Bale (The Fighter, The Dark Knight). The film has been selected as this year’s official foreign language entry for China at the Academy Awards. Wrekin Hill, in association with Row 1, will open the film in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco in late December 2011 and the film will then expand through early 2012.
THE FLOWERS OF WAR will have a wide release in China on December 16th following three premiere events in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Chris Ball, President and CEO of Wrekin Hill said, “THE FLOWERS OF WAR just blew me away. Not only is it incredibly powerful but the artistry is absolutely sensational. We are really excited to be bringing this wonderful film to North American audiences. It follows in the tradition of some of the classic films we have had the privilege of releasing over the past decade. I am also thrilled that Row 1 shares our passion for thefilm.”
Producer Zhang Weiping said: “We were very impressed by the passion that Wrekin Hill and Row 1 showed for the film. Their aggressive release strategy coupled with their desire to focus on an effective awards campaign for THE FLOWERS OF WAR immediately captured our attention. We are thrilled to be in their very capable hands and in bringing this powerful and emotionally engaging film to North American audiences.”
Based on a screenplay by Heng Liu (The Story of Qiu Ju), THE FLOWERS OF WAR is adapted from Geling Yan’s historical novel 13 Flowers of Nanjing. The film is a work of historical fiction set against the backdrop of the Rape of Nanking, a brutal chapter in the Sino-Japanese War, which was a significant event in Chinese history. Produced and fully financed by Zhang Weiping under his New Pictures Film banner, THE FLOWERS OF WAR is inspired by true life events, and tells a genuine story of hope, love and sacrifice.
Set in 1937, Nanking stands at the forefront of a war between China and Japan. As the invading Japanese Imperial Army overruns China’s capital city, desperate civilians seek refuge behind the nominally protective walls of a western cathedral. Here, John Miller (Bale), an American trapped amidst the chaos of battle, and theensuing occupation, takes shelter, joined by a group of innocent schoolgirlsand thirteen courtesans, equally determined to escape the horrors taking place outside the church walls.
THE FLOWERS OF WAR is executive produced by David Linde, Chaoying Deng, and Bill Kong. International Sales are handled by Glen Basner and FilmNation Entertainment. The deal was negotiated by executive producers Linde and Deng along with attorney Stephen Saltzman of Loeb & Loeb on behalf of the filmmaker, Zhang Weiping, by Chris Ball and Rene Cogan on behalf of Wrekin Hill and Brandt Andersen on behalf of Row 1.
About Wrekin Hill Entertainment
WREKIN HILL ENTERTAINMENT is a Los Angeles-based production and distribution company, founded by the former Newmarket Films team of Chris Ball and Rene Cogan. Ball and Cogan built a reputation at Newmarket for producing and distributing such indie classics as MEMENTO, DONNIE DARKO, WHALE RIDER, MONSTER, and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Wrekin Hill has a multi-year US home entertainment distribution deal with Lionsgate, and a three-year multi-platform output deal with Canadian distributor eOne. The company aims to distribute four to five quality theatrical releases each year , in addition to its ancillary driven output,with a focus on the same kind of director-driven specialty films on which the team has built its reputation. During 2011, Wrekin Hill has theatrically released such films as Peter Weir’s THE WAY BACK, and Spencer Susser’s HESHER starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Natalie Portman.
About Row 1 Productions
Row 1 Productions was founded by a group of private investors including world-renowned OrthopedicSurgeon Dr. Rick Lehman. In addition to his prestigious medical practice, Lehman also has several holdings which include entertainment, medicine and an ownership stake in the NHL’s Florida Panthers. Row 1 Production’s investments include domestic rights acquisition and early stage bridge financing for production. Row 1 has provided financing this year for Stephen Frear’s LAY THE FAVORITE, FROZEN GROUND starring Nicholas Cage, and BROKEN CITY starring Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe. Row 1 Productions is headquartered in Beverly Hills, California.