Christian Bale's 'Flowers of War' to open in U.S.
Producers on the Christian Bale China war epic announced Monday that they have made a deal with a Los Angeles-based company called Wrekin Hill Entertainment to release the film in North America. The movie will get a limited release in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in December and then a wider release in early 2012, the producers said.
The deal could mean that "Flowers" won't get the big push that a larger studio acquisition might have entailed. Instead, the movie, shown to many North American buyers only last month, will be turned around quickly by Wrekin Hill and given an Oscar-qualifying run before the end of the year. The number of theaters it will play both in the limited run and the 2012 release have not been determined, a spokeswoman said.
Wrekin Hill is run by the former principals of Newmarket Films, which was behind the release of hits such as "Memento" and "The Passion of the Christ" in the early 2000s. It has concentrated in its new incarnation on niche releases such as Peter Weir's "The Way Back" and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's "Hesher."
The movie will not be released day-and-date with China, where the film will open wide Dec. 16.
Directed by Zhang Yimou ("Heroes"), the multilingual "Flowers" stars Bale as a mortician posing as a priest during the rape of Nanking; when the war begins to intensify, he risks his own life to save young female students and courtesans. With an estimated budget of $100 million, "Flowers" is the most expensive movie in China's history and an evident point of pride for the country, which is looking to up its stock in Hollywood.
The Wrekin Hill deal came about in part, said one person with knowledge of the plans who asked anonymity because of the sensitive nature of negotiations, because producers were keen on an awards push this year, and most distributors already had their slates locked for 2011.
"Flowers" is the official China submission in the foreign-language category. The film need not open in the United States to be eligible for that category, but the qualifying run means that principals will be eligible in all categories — including, of course, best actor. The war epic, financially backed by producer Zhang Weiping, has hired veteran Oscar consultant Cynthia Swartz to help with the campaign.
— Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Chrisian Bale in "The Flowers of War." Credit: Wrekin Hill Entertainment.