China Box Office: 'Kong: Skull Island' Opens to Muscular $72M

Kong: Skull Island roared into the Middle Kingdom over the weekend, earning a muscular $72 million, according to studio figures.

The big bow gives the Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment film claim to Hollywood’s second-largest opening in China this year, behind only Resident Evil’s surprising $94 million February debut.

Opening on 18,000 screens, Kong easily cast Disney’s Beauty and the Beast aside. BATB added $12.4 million in its sophomore outing, bringing its two-frame total to $73.4 million, according to Beijing box-office tracker Ent Group.

Kong, directed by Jordan Vogt Roberts and starring Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson, also laid claim to China’s all-time biggest March launch in IMAX, with $6.5 million from 387 giant-format screens. By midweek, Kong should march past Godzilla - Warner Bros.’ and Legendary’s last hit monster flick together - which grossed about $77.6 million in China in 2014.

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Kong’s greatest test will be endurance. For over a year, Hollywood tentpoles have tended to open huge and crash hard in China. But the monster movie reboot, which was co-financed by Chinese internet giant Tencent and has local marketing support from Legendary parent Dalian Wanda Group, has some good timing on its side. Kong’s second weekend will coincide with China’s three-day Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival, a popular moviegoing holiday. The U.S. blockbuster won’t have any Hollywood competition in frame two, but it will be interesting to see how it fares against Perfect World Pictures’ local action-thriller Extraordinary Mission, directed by Alan Mak and written by Felix Ma (the duo behind Hong Kong classic Infernal Affairs), and Beijing Enlight’s The Devotion of Suspect X, an adaptation of a best-selling Japanese mystery novel by Keigo Higashino.

The rest of April is shaping up to be a busy season for studio releases in China. Paramount’s Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson, will open April 7, followed by Universal’s The Fate of the Furious on April 14 and Sony’s Smurfs: The Lost Village on April 21.

Sources tell THR that Lionsgates’ Power Rangers also has been cleared for an April release, and state distributor China Film Group is currently working on dating.

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Amber Heard countersues producer of London Fields

Johnny Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard has countersued the producer of her 2015 film London Fields, accusing him of keeping a series of sexy photos of her without her consent.

Christopher Hanley initially filed suit against the actress after she and director Mathew Cullen staged a publicity boycott at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival in Canada, following the producer’s alleged movie takeover.

Hanley’s $10 million (GBP8 million) claim against Heard for an alleged breach of contract and her subsequent refusal to attend the Toronto premiere was filed in November (16), and on Thursday (30Apr17), she responded by telling a judge, “This case shines a spotlight on the dark underbelly of Hollywood.”

In a cross-complaint targeting Hanley and his wife Roberta and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Heard’s attorney claims, “A rising film star, Heard agreed to play the lead in the motion picture entitled London Fields based on Martin Amis’s novel. After reading the script, she insisted on specific restrictions about nudity and sex scenes in the film as a condition to agreeing to appear in the Movie. Hanley… expressly agreed to Heard’s terms, and they were memorialized in the Nudity Rider to her contract.”

According to Heard, Hanley fired director Cullen and created a “Producer’s Cut” that included unauthorised sexual images and vulgar scenes.

“The Hanleys also caused to be filmed secretly several additional nude and sex scenes with a body double for Heard and included them in the ‘Producer’s Cut’ - also in violation of the Nudity Rider,” states the cross-complaint. “The secret filming of this body double footage was not on the schedule that had been provided to Heard and was shot with a skeleton crew only after Heard had completed filming and had left the set.

"The body double footage included an explicit pornographic sex scene that Heard would never have agreed to do herself… The body double footage was designed and intended to leave anyone who saw the images with the distinct impression that it was Heard.”

The actress also claims Hanley demanded “continuity photos” of Heard during filming.

“Such photos can include various states of undress during wardrobe changes,” continues the cross-complaint. “There is no legitimate business purpose for Hanley to have such photographs after filming was concluded, and the Hanleys had and have no rights to use such photographs for any proper purpose after filming ended.”

Heard is countersuing for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, among other complaints. She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages plus a permanent injunction to prohibit distribution of the film.

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