China to win first premiere of «Da Vinci Code» in Cannes

China 's gala showing of "The Da Vinci Code" on Wednesday was set to be the world's first, beating the official Cannes premier by an hour in a move that underscores Hollywood 's efforts to woo Chinese viewers. Invitations to the China debut, at the upscale Oriental Plaza Mall in downtown Beijing , said the film was scheduled to start at 9 p.m. (1300 GMT), about an hour before the premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in France .

Cannes is still considered the "official worldwide premier," said Li Chow, general manager in Beijing for its distributor, Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International and Sony Pictures Entertainment. But the one-hour head start electrified Chinese media. The Beijing News newspaper declared: " China to be the First with Beijing Premiere of 'Da Vinci Code."'

"I wouldn't be surprised if more films aren't going to be released in China as the 'global first' in future," said Wang Ran, chief executive of China eCapital Corp., a Beijing media consulting firm. While China accounts for just a "tiny fraction" of Hollywood 's global earnings, American filmmakers have a huge and growing interest in courting the Chinese market, Wang said.

Hollywood hopes such early premieres will help to attract viewers and fight rampant illegal copying of movies in China by giving audiences a chance to see the real thing before pirated copies reach the market. Foreign studios also hope including China in worldwide premieres will encourage the government to ease limits on imports of foreign titles and to allow more co-productions, Wang said.

Li said "Da Vinci" would have the widest release yet for a foreign film in China , with some 393 prints sent to theaters, breaking the record of 380 prints set by "King Kong" last year. "I think this is the film with the highest profile in China this year," Li said.

She attributed the buzz to the popularity in China of the novel on which it is based, Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code." Some 1.2 million legal copies and millions more pirated copies have been sold. In an effort to foil film pirates, security at Chinese showings of "Da Vinci" will be tight, with bags checked for video cameras, Li said. "We heard one person who said he saw something (a pirated DVD) in the shops," Li said. "But it turned out it wasn't `Da Vinci'", reports the AP.


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