'Doctor Strange,' 'Fantastic Beasts' Score China Releases

By Brent Lang

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" and "Doctor Strange" will both be allowed to screen in China, sources tell Variety.

Both films appear likely to debut at roughly the same time that they bow in the United States. "Doctor Strange," an adaptation of the popular comic book about a former surgeon who becomes a sorcerer, is the first out of the gate, and will hit the Middle Kingdom on Nov. 4.

"Fantastic Beasts'" date hasn't officially been confirmed and could shift, but it appears that the "Harry Potter" spinoff will debut on Nov. 18.

China is the world's second-largest film market, and can add tens of millions of dollars to a film's gross. Previous Marvel releases such as "Iron Man 3" and "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" did more than $100 million in the People's Republic. The "Harry Potter" franchise hasn't been as successful, with the most recent film in the series making a little more than $60 million in the country. However, that film hit theaters five years ago, and China's box office has continued to grow exponentially since that time.

China maintains a tight quota on the number of foreign productions it allows to screen in the country, limiting it to 34 non-Chinese films annually. It appears that the remaining slots are going fast. Just this week, "Trolls" scored a release date. "Inferno," a thriller with Tom Hanks, and "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," Ang Lee's war drama, will also get screened in China.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in "Doctor Strange," along with Tilda Swinton and Rachel McAdams. "Fantastic Beasts" is set in the world of Hogwarts, though it focuses on new characters. Eddie Redmayne stars, with David Yates, who directed several previous "Potter" adventures, sliding behind the camera.

Spokespeople for Disney, the studio behind "Doctor Strange," and Warner Bros., the maker of "Fantastic Beasts," declined to comment.

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