'Kong: Skull Island' sets all-time record in Vietnam

Asia / Pacific Roundabout

Warner Bros.’ Kong: Skull Island has set a new box-office record in Vietnam, drawing about two million viewers and grossing $7.2 million in ticket sales by the end of March. The phenomenal result made the film the biggest box-office earner in Vietnamese history, according to its sole national distributor and exhibitor, CJ CGV Vietnam. The company is the country’s largest film distributor and cinema chain operator and a wholly owned subsidiary of South Korea’s CJ Group. CJ CGV Vietnam had signed a strategic contract with Warner Bros., giving it exclusive direct distribution and marketing rights in Vietnam for the film.

Although March and April traditionally are a very slow box-office period in Vietnam, Kwak Dong-won, managing director of CJ CGV Vietnam, said: “Kong: Skull Island will go down in [Vietnamese] movie history as an example of overcoming an off-peak season and greatly expanding the local film market through the synergy of distribution and screening.” The movie’s success also helped CJ CGV Vietnam to achieve itshighest quarterly performance ever. In March alone, the circuit earned some $16 million in ticket sales from more than four million moviegoers across the nation. According to Kwak Dong-won, “CGV Vietnam is the number-one theatre operator and distributor in Vietnam, accounting for a 50% share in total annual box-office sales and a 65% share of the distribution market.”

Korea Multiplex to Sell 19.5% of Megabox Stake

South Korea’s third-largest cinema operator, Korea Multiplex, announced that it will sell 19.5% of its 50% stake in the Megabox cinema chain to financial institutions KB Asset Management and Shinhan BNP Paribas for KRW110 billion ($97.5 mil.). The trade comprises a total of 157,410 Megabox shares, although it is unknown how many of these exactly are earmarked for each of the two institutional investors.

The decision for the deal was apparently made by South Korean media company JContentree Corp., which controls 98.5% of Korea Multiplex and also owns 50% of Megabox, the other half being held by Korea Multiplex itself. JContendree is anticipated to use the proceeds from Korea Multiplex’s Megabox share sale to mitigate its own rather precarious financial situation. At the end of last year, it had posted a debt ratio of a staggering 340% versus its total assets. But despite the sale, JContendree still is going to retain a comfortable commanding stake of 80.5%—either directly or through Korea Multiplex—in Megabox and has announced that it will further expand the already existing partnership between the cinema chain and South Korea’s largest shopping mall operator, Shinsegae Group.

At least two new Megabox cinemas have already opened in Shinsegae-operated malls since last September. And while Shinsegae will take over COEX Mall in Seoul in October, where Megabox has had a presence since 2000, the cinema chain is expected to also follow Shinsegae to yet more locations across the country this year.

Women’s-Rights Film Finally Cleared For Release in India

An award-winning women’s-rights feature film has finally been cleared for release in its native India following a ruling by an arbitration panel. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), India’s censorship body, in February had effectively blocked Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016) from being released by denying it the needed certificate on the grounds that it was "too lady-oriented" and contained "contentious sexual scenes and abusive words."

As news of the board’s decision spread across social media, it raised a storm of public outrage, criticizing it as a small-minded and shameless attempt at curtailing freedom of speech and expression. The Hindi-language drama’s directors, Prakash Jha and Alankrita Shrivastava, subsequently petitioned the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), a panel entrusted with arbitrating censorship cases and holding the power to overrule decisions made by the CBFC. Although ruling in favor of Lipstick Under My Burkha, the FCAT still ordered the directors to make a number of minor cuts and also only accorded the film an adult certification, which means it can only be shown to audiences of ages 18 years and older.

Following its ruling, the FCAT said in a statement:"There cannot be any embargo on a women-oriented film or one that contains sexual fantasies and expressions of women’s innermost desires… If the aspect of sexual desires and their expression is sensitively handled without conveying coarseness, vulgarity, obscenity or pandering prurient tendencies, then [such a film] is not to be disallowed."

Set in a small town, Lipstick Under My Burkha chronicles the lives of four Muslim women in search of a little freedom from the constraints imposed by society and religion. In the process, they engage in small acts of courage and stealthy rebellion. For example—and as the movie’s title already implies—they begin applying lipstick and makeup and wanting to look sexy under their body-covering traditional dresses known as burkhas (or burqas), trying to assert their personal and sexual rights.

Thought-provoking and pointing an accusing finger at rigid and outdated social and religious attitudes that degrade women to objects that cannot be permitted to live out their human desires and needs, Lipstick Under My Burkha has received a number of prestigious awards. It won the Oxfam Award for best film on gender equality at the Mumbai Film Festival, the Spirit of Asia Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Audience Choice Award at the Glasgow Film Festival.

For inquiries and feedback, contact Thomas Schmid at thomas.schmid@filmjournal.com.