A true measure of success for international celebrities in China is when they are bestowed with an affectionate nickname. Jennifer Lawrence, beloved for her portrayal of freedom fighter Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games series, is popularly known as Da Biaojie, or ‘older cousin’. In fact China is consumed by Lawrence-love right now, and likewise with the tale of the “girl on fire” who leaves District 13 to liberate the citizens of Panem that has made her such an icon. Fans view the actress “as if she was a member of their family,” the Global Times says.
At the box office, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 racked up $16 million in its opening weekend in China. Lionsgate – the studio producing it – linked up with China Film Group to hold its first ever premiere in China, which was attended by Lawrence, co-stars Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, and director Francis Lawrence. Adoring tributes ensued. “It seems that everywhere this young actress goes, laughter follows. Her current trip to China is no different,” said the Global Times, which focused on Lawrence’s love for laughter, at one point describing her giggling so much she could barely stand up.
“Lawrence certainly has a reputation for being a fun extroverted person. She humorously dealt with her falls on her way to the stage when receiving her Oscar in 2013 and also during the red carpet for the Oscars the following year, which made fans just love her even more,” the newspaper gushed.
There were more jolly japes in photos from the cast’s publicity tour. One showed Hemsworth, who plays the brooding hero Gale Hawthorn, wearing a panda hat and carrying Jennifer Lawrence’s Valentino purse as the cast took to the Great Wall. Hemsworth later told American TV host Jimmy Kimmel that he thought the Great Wall was spectacular: “A lot of hard work was put into that wall. I respect it.”
Hemsworth’s praise for China’s air quality was more measured, however, telling Kimmel: “We couldn’t see very far because of the smog, you could have been on any small, brick-like bridge”.
Mockingjay – Part 2 was Lionsgate’s biggest effort yet in China, debuting on several thousand screens,
And the movie’s success in China comes despite its seemingly contentious political message – after all, this is a film about rebels overthrowing an authoritarian regime.
The film’s director said the author of the series, Suzanne Collins, had set out to write about the consequences of war and violence, but that “one of the odd things that’s started to happen now is that some of the ideas that are in our movies are getting reflected back into real life”.
The franchise hasn’t always had an easy time of it in China, although apparently (and surprisingly) not because of its political content.
Mockingjay – Part 1 opened in the US in November 2014, but didn’t reach China until February this year, after authorities pushed back the opening date to balance the commercial box office hauls for domestic and foreign movies in the calendar year 2014.
A similar commercial jig occurred this year, with July’s blackout of foreign films giving priority to domestic titles. But that’s meant this November has seen a bonanza of foreign movies hit Chinese screens. These included survival epic Everest, sci-fi flick Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Snoopy’s first 3D outing The Peanuts Movie, and of course James Bond in Spectre.
Mockingjay – Part 2 was released on the same day as the Sino-French thriller The Transporter Refuelled, which is said to be a co-production and so does not come under the rules restricting overseas movies to 34 releases per year.
This week also sees the launch of The Martian, with Matt Damon. November has been so busy that the quota for the year is nearly used up, meaning that The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, which opens on December 1, could be the last international offering of the year.
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