20 October 2018
The latest installment of the Transformers franchise is expected to break movie box-office records in China. Photo:
The latest installment of the Transformers franchise is expected to break movie box-office records in China. Photo:

Paramount ends ‘Transformers’ dispute; show must go on

No change is a good thing for Transformers fans in China. The fourth installment of the blockbuster robot franchise will open on June 27 as originally scheduled.

Widely anticipated to become China’s next all-time box office champ, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is expected to blow the doors off the US$221.9 million record set by “Avatar” in 2009.

But just days before its global launch, Paramount Pictures was slapped with a lawsuit that could have postponed the movie’s release and cost the studio millions.

Pangu Plaza, a Beijing luxury hotel, mall and office complex, was livid over what it claimed was a product-placement deal gone sour, the Los Angeles Times noted.

All is on track now, but not before Paramount scrambled over the weekend to organize and stage a big premiere at the Pangu hotel—jetting in Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore, director Michael Bay, producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and star Jack Reynor from the US. A giant replica of the Bumblebee Transformer was there as well.

According to the Times, the local press corps ate canapes, drank wine and pocketed US$50 “transportation fees” for attending the event on four hours’ notice.

Beijing Pangu Investment, which paid US$1.8 million in the product-placement deal, dropped its request to block the movie’s release.

The first three installments of the “Transformers” franchise have done increasingly well at the box office on the mainland: 2007′s original grossed US$45 million, the 2009 sequel took in US$72 million, and the third film hauled in US$172 million in 2011, said the Times.

“Age of Extinction” may be Hollywood’s most ambitious attempt yet to concoct an East-West hybrid that will appeal to audiences from Beijing to Boise, said Variety.

American film studios salivate at the numbers coming out of China, said Quartz. Unlike in North America, where box office revenues grew by only 1 percent last year, ticket sales in China jumped by 27 percent, according to new data from the Motion Picture Association of America.

China figures prominently into “Age of Extinction,” with scenes filmed in China and Hong Kong (both great backdrops for Michael Bay’s brand of destruction, mass confusion and mayhem). I can’t wait to see what the Autobots and Decepticons do to the Great Wall.

Hong Kong, incidentally, gets the lion’s share of the attention onscreen, taking up about 30 minutes of the film’s 165-minute running time (a franchise record), according to Variety.

Li Bingbing and Han Geng are also in the cast, with Fan Bingbing, last seen in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” making an appearance.

The US$165 million mega-production also received production assistance from 1905 (Beijing) Network Technology Co., China Movie Channel and Jiaflix Enterprises.

Fang Bin, vice general manager of Dadi, which operates theaters in mostly second- and third-tier cities and whose box office is second only to Wanda Cinema Line in China, said expectations are high, wrote Hollywood Reporter.

“At the moment, industry people really have a high expectation about ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction.’ They are saying it’s going to overtake ‘Avatar’ and do 1.5 billion yuan (US$240 million) box office,” Fang told the Jinjiang Evening News.

According to Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ “Godzilla” took US$37 million in its opening weekend, while Tom Cruise’s “Edge of Tomorrow” took US$24.67 million in its first full week to bring its cume to US$50.57 million, and 20th Century Fox tentpole “X-Men: Days of Future Past” had taken nearly US$115 million after 24 days in China.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” stars Mark Wahlberg as a mechanic who strikes up a friendship with good-guy robot Optimus Prime. Nicola Peltz plays his on-screen daughter, and Jack Reynor her secret boyfriend. Kelsey Grammar plays the villain.

In a nice touch, Wahlberg, Peltz and Reynor recently posted videos in China wishing 10 million high-school students good luck with their college entrance exams.

“Hey, everyone, I’m Mark Wahlberg, star of the new movie Transformers 4: The Age of Extinction,” the actor says in his video. “The annual college entrance exam is coming, so I’d like to wish all of you students out there lots of luck, and don’t forget to catch Transformers 4—after the exam!”

Despite coming to terms with Paramount Pictures, Beijing Pangu Investment is reportedly suing two other companies involved in the production, alleging breach of contract in an effort to recover its US$1.8 million investment, according to court filings.

Named in the suit accepted by Beijing Chaoyang Court are Jia Bin China Co. Ltd. and Beijing Cheng Xin Sheng Shi Sports and Culture Development Co. Ltd.

Transformers 4 premiered in Hong Kong last week, a city where Michael Bay famously fought off an attack by a wacko wielding an air conditioning unit last year.

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