New Chinese film starring EXO idol Sehun signals return of South Korean wave to Chinese mainland
Published: Mar 03, 2021 02:33 PM

Sehun (left) and Wu Qian Photo: Courtesy of Huace Media

Chinese movie Catman, starring South Korean actor and singer Oh Se-hun in the lead role, has finally received a new release date of March 14 in the Chinese mainland. Filmed in 2016 and originally scheduled for release in 2017, the film's new release date is being considered as a sign that the Chinese mainland is reopening its doors to South Korean entertainment and stars.

On major Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan, more than 100,000 users, 80 percent of them women, have placed the film on their "want to watch" lists. 

The film's screen share on its release day may reach 67 percent, according to Maoyan.

Film critics predict that the movie will receive support from fans of Oh, who is a member of the boy band EXO, as well as fans of the other Chinese celebrities appearing in the film, so estimate that the film's first day box office might surpass 30 million yuan ($4.6 million) and total gross reaching 100 million yuan.

Oh Sehun Photo: Courtesy of Huace Media

The movie tells a fantasy love story about an internet product manager played by Chinese actress Wu Qian and an animal expert played by Oh who is also half cat. The director Park Hee-gon is also from South Korea.

The movie was originally scheduled to release after another film So, I Married My Anti-fan, a China-South Korea coproduction starring Oh's EXO teammate Park Chanyeol. So, I Married My Anti-fan was released in June 2016, just before South Korea decided to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system on July 8 of that year.

Following that, no TV or film works involving South Korean entertainers appeared on screens in the Chinese mainland.

"This movie is the first [film with South Korean stars] that can be released in the Chinese mainland after 2016. This is the result of the cooperation agreement signed by China Central Television and KBS in February 2021," Shi Wenxue, a film critic and teacher at the Beijing Film Academy, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Chinese entertainment insiders agreed that this is a signal that South Korean entertainment, including variety shows, films as well as performers, is being allowed to return to the Chinese mainland market.

Catman's release has also been seen a good news by South Korean media as the huge Chinese mainland market has always been an attractive draw for producers and investors around the world.

Oh's debut on Chinese cinema screens has driven his Chinese fans into frenzy as they have waited for four years for the film.

"I must buy tickets to support Sehun. This is his first Chinese film and we fans want the industry to see his influence in China," one Chinese fan, 24, told the Global Times.

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