While the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, things in China are just now starting to reverse course after the entire country had been on lockdown for weeks. Specifically, a small smattering of movie theaters in isolated parts of the nation has begun to reopen, with more expected to follow suit in the coming days and weeks. To help jumpstart the movie business again, a handful of former blockbusters will be playing in China to help draw in crowds, including a new 3D 4K version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
According to several reports, Warner Bros. announced via local social network sites that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the first entry in one of the most successful franchises of all time, will be hitting theaters in China once again in a newly restored 4K version. Other movies set to return to theaters will be 2017's Wolf Warrior 2, 2019's sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth, 2015's drama Wolf Totem, 2013's American Dreams in China and 2018's Lebanese indie Capernaum. None of those titles were particularly big hits in North America, but they were huge draws in China.
Wolf Warrior 2, for example, grossed $854 million in the Middle Kingdom, making it one of the country's biggest hits ever. The idea is not only to give audiences something popular to enjoy, but to give theaters something to show. Period. Many upcoming releases were delayed amidst the spread of COVID-19, which has left a lack of options for exhibitors that are getting ready to reopen their doors. As such, China's Film Bureau has hatched this plan to give theaters options in the meantime, while delayed releases await the chance to be rescheduled.
One important item of note is that deals have been worked out with the rights-holders for these movies to allow for 100 percent of the ticket sales to stay with the theaters. Typically, theaters only keep 51 percent, with the rest going back to the studio, to the rights holders, and/or to pay taxes. This will help provide a much-needed boost in the revenue department for theater owners who were hit particularly hard by the weeks-long closure. It could still be months before things truly regain a sense of normalcy, but this is a start.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, released in 2001, was a gigantic global hit, grossing $974 million worldwide, making it the second-highest-grossing movie ever at that time, just behind Titanic. However, this was before China became the second-largest movie-going nation in the world, so the adaptation of J.K. Rowling's best-selling novel didn't do much business in China at the time. Depending on the turnout, it's possible this re-release could push the movie past the $1 billion mark worldwide, which would be an interesting turn of events, and would also make it just the second title in the franchise to pass that mark, alongside Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ($1.34 billion). This news comes to us via The Hollywood Reporter.