LOS ANGELES, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Chinese war epic "The Eight Hundred" will hit the big screen in limited theatrical release in North America on Friday, becoming the first major Chinese blockbuster to greet moviegoers as cinemas are reopening in the United States and Canada after months-long closures amid the pandemic.
The acclaimed visionary war film will be released by CMC Pictures with English subtitles in over 90 selected theaters in Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Vancouver, Toronto and a few other major cities across the United States and Canada. Major markets including New York and California will be added in the coming weeks pending cinema reopening in those states.
Directed by Guan Hu, whose best-known works include the 2015 film "Mr. Six," the 80-million-U.S.-dollar production based on true stories depicts Chinese soldiers' defense of a warehouse against the invading Japanese army during the Battle of Shanghai in 1937. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned by the enemy, a battalion of around 400 soldiers, dubbed "The Eight Hundred Heroes," held out against numerous waves of Japanese forces for four days and four nights.
"The Eight Hundred," shot entirely with IMAX cameras, is China's first major theatrical release since local cinemas reopened in July.
Box office data compiled by Maoyan, a movie-ticketing and film data platform, showed that the film had grossed a massive 1.45 billion yuan (about 211 million U.S. dollars) after seven days of release, despite local theater capacity limited to 50 percent due to the ongoing pandemic. It has become the first film to make over 1 billion yuan in the world's second-largest box-office market this year.
The film currently boasts a rating of 9.2 points out of 10 on the Maoyan platform and a rating of 7.7 on Douban, a review platform.
"'The Eight Hundred' is ultimately about a nation and its people coming together during a time of unprecedented crisis," said Guan Hu in a press release from CMC Pictures.
"It's a universal story that has a renewed relevance in these current times. I'm thrilled that CMC Pictures is bringing the film to North America's audiences and sharing an inspiring moment in China's history with the rest of the world," he added.
In addition to the award-winning Chinese cast and crew, leading Hollywood veterans were also recruited to help realize the director's ambitious cinematic vision. These included Academy Award-nominated visual effects supervisor Tim Crosbie ("X-Men: Days of Future Past"), action director Glenn Boswell ("The Thin Red Line") and composers Rupert Gregson-Williams ("Hacksaw Ridge") and Andrew Kawczynski ("Dunkirk"), according to CMC Pictures.
"CMC Pictures is proud to offer North American audiences the chance to experience 'The Eight Hundred' on the big screen," said Julia Zhu, director of international distribution at CMC Pictures, noting that the film is "a marvel of filmmaking and a testament to the power of the theatrical moviegoing experience."
"It's a decision surely not easy to make to release a blockbuster in North America at this moment due to the impact of the ongoing pandemic on moviegoers and theater operations," she told Xinhua on Thursday.
CMC Pictures said its distribution and marketing network covers 281 cities in 103 countries on five continents. The company is one of the largest and the most influential film companies in China and the largest and leading overseas distribution platform for Chinese-language films in the world.
"After careful consideration, we decided to release the film in phases based on different locales. The beleaguered industry needs new popular releases to bring back audiences," she noted, hoping the film can instill new confidence and energy to film markets as the first blockbuster since the beginning of the pandemic in March, which forced massive closures of cinemas around the world.
The strong box office performance of "The Eight Hundred" in China has grabbed the attention of Hollywood.
"Blockbuster Chinese war epic delivers Imax-scale spectacle," commented a Variety film review.
"For those with little knowledge of the Sino-Japanese War, the bombardment of facts, action and characters in the 147-minute film can be too much to take in at one go. But the spirit of the mission, like that of 'The Alamo,' should be easy for any audience to root for," wrote the U.S. entertainment industry magazine's chief Asia film critic Maggie Lee.
"A huge opening for 'The Eight Hundred' is great news for 'Tenet,'" commented Forbes.
Christopher Nolan's latest sci-fi action feature film "Tenet," with a reported budget of more than 200 million dollars, is set to land in Chinese mainland theaters on Sept. 4.
"As theaters worldwide start to reopen, the top-tier/best-case-scenario performance of this Chinese war epic is as optimistic a result as you could imagine. That's encouraging news for Warner Bros.' international theatrical release for Tenet as well as any of the other biggies still on the theatrical release calendar for this year," wrote film critic Scott Mendelson in Forbes. Enditem