UPDATE: As of March 11, 2019, “Green Book” surpassed RMB 300 million in China box office sales, nearly tripling that of “The Shape of Water”, which was last year’s Oscars’ Best Picture winner.
“Green Book,” a film presented by Participant Media, Dreamworks Pictures and Alibaba Pictures, landed three Oscars at the Academy Awards on Sunday.
The movie took home golden statues for best picture, best original screenplay and best actor in a supporting role. It had been nominated for five Oscars in total, including also best performance by an actor in a leading role and best achievement in film editing. “Green Book” has won 18 awards since it debuted last November, including three Golden Globe Awards. It is set for release in China on Friday.
Set in 1962, the film is about the unlikely friendship between an African American, classically trained pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and a working-class Italian American bouncer Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), who is hired to escort Shirley on a concert tour through the segregated American south. Before they hit the road, Vallelonga is handed the “Green Book” of the title, a travel guide detailing hotels and restaurants that welcomed black travelers.
The film’s big wins marks a milestone for Alibaba Pictures, the film-financing and production arm of Alibaba Group. Other Oscar nominated films it has been involved in include Lebanese actress-director Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum” and “On the Basis of Sex,” an early-years biopic of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Even though Alibaba Pictures is a relatively new entrant into Hollywood, we have a track record of choosing quality projects that not only have high entertainment value, but also have positive messages we believe in,” said Wei Zhang, president of Alibaba Pictures. “We are honored to co-finance this Oscar-winning film and introduce it to Chinese audiences.”
This comes as Alibaba Pictures expands global collaborations in the film industry, from financing and production to marketing and distribution. Alibaba Pictures established its overseas offices in Pasadena, California in 2016 to find stories to invest in, produce and share high-quality content with the fast-growing China market, one that is expected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest movie market by 2022, according to Ampere Analysis.
Aside from “Green Book, ” it played a vital role in promoting Paramount Pictures’ “Mission Impossible: Fallout” last August, tapping partners from across its ecosystem, such as the online marketplace Taobao, video-streaming hub Youku and digital wallet Alipay. Over the lucrative Chinese New Year holiday, it also released “Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year, ” the first full-length feature film based on the beloved U.K. cartoon character, co-produced with Entertainment One.
Most recently, Alibaba Pictures’s movie-ticketing platform Taopiaopiao promoted James Cameron’s latest sci-fi thriller, “Alita: Battle Angel,” as its primary online marketing and sales channel in China. To transport viewers to the post-apocalyptic world seen in the movie, Taopiaopiao specially designed a featured page based on the movie’s setting, “Iron City.” In addition, fans who visit the page and play games for tickets and movie vouchers are called “Bounty Hunters,” also a play on a theme in the movie. The movie is currently the top-ranking foreign film users would like to watch (the most users added the movie to their watch list on Taopiaopiao), said Alibaba Pictures.