Huayi Brothers’ Rock Dog, the most expensive 100% Chinese-financed animated production of all-time, is set to open July 8 in Chinese theaters. Whether Chinese filmgoers will have the opportunity to see the $60 million movie is a big question mark.
According to reports on China.org.cn and China Film Insider, Wanda Cinema Line, the largest movie theater chain in China (and also the owner of the AMC chain in the United States), is allegedly sabotaging the release of Rock Dog by limiting screenings of the film. The reports suggest that Wanda has arranged only seven showings of the film, amounting to 0.3 percent of all its screens, and those screenings are scheduled for non-prime hours.
Wanda's attempts to kill the film is alleged payback to Rock Dog’s production company Huayi Bros., which poached Wanda executive Jerry Ye a few months back and made him CEO of its movie division. A deeper—and more problematic—issue is that both Wanda and Huayi own movie theaters in addition to producing movies. For example, Wanda screened Warcraft on over 65% of its screens because it owns Legendary Pictures, the American company that produced the film. The treatment of both Rock Dog and Warcraft are situations that are generally avoided in the United States thanks to the landmark 1948 Supreme Court antitrust case that ruled movie studios cannot own the theaters in which their films are screened.