http://www.examiner.com/x-1378-L ... -make-it-in-America
The AP reports that director John Woo is optimistic about Red Cliff's chances at box office success outside Asia. The first installment of the epic film depicting the bloody Three Kingdom period of Chinese history has already cleaned up at the Chinese box office and done well in other Asian countries. According to an AP article, the film has gained distributors in South America and Europe but is still waiting on U.S. distributors.
America may be the land of opportunity, but not if you are trying to distribute a movie with subtitles. Few foreign films make it to wide release in the U.S. and fewer still make significant money here, but there are of course exceptions. So how do some foreign films make it in the U.S.? Here are some good bets to getting distribution and finding success in the American market:
1) Films need stars.
Not just any stars, people Americans are familiar with. It doesn't matter how famous you are in other countries if American movie goers haven't heard of you. Consider some of the films that have made it big in the U.S. (relatively speaking). Crouching Tiger which had unprecedented success in the U.S. had Chow Yun Fat and last year's highest grossing foreign film Forbidden Kingdom had both Jet Li and Jackie Chan. While this doesn't guarantee anything, it's a good hint as to whether a film can get picked up. Red Cliff has Tony Leung who is a huge star in China and Hong Kong but not as large here and Takeshi Kaneshiro who might be slightly more famous here for his role in Hero and House of Flying Daggers.
2) Famous directors.
Again, famous here is important. Again, what undoubtedly contributed to Crouching Tiger's success was the fact that the film's director Ang Lee had made a number of films in the U.S. prior to Crouching Tiger. Red Cliff's director John Woo has had a string of hits in Hong Kong in the 1980s and has made a name for himself in Hollywood (Mission Impossible II, Face/Off). This might be the deciding factor as to whether this film gets distribution.
3) Familiar Subjects.
Life is Beautiful which was the highest grossing foreign film at one time dealt with the Holocaust, a subject certainly familiar to the average moviegoer. Now Woo's film is set in the Three Kingdom period - a particularly famous and bloody period of Chinese history. Famous that is, to the Chinese. Outside of Asian Studies Departments here, I don't think many Americans (including myself) are tremendously familiar with this time period.
While China will be treated to two installments of the film reaching over five hours, other countries will get their Red Cliff fix in one film totaling over two hours. The second installment in China was released Jan. 15, which should give it a box office edge since it will still be a fairly new release over the Chinese New Year (Jan 26).