- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2011

BEIJING (AP) - China’s Communist Party expects its new propaganda film will be a blockbuster. After all, it has left little to chance. The cast is loaded with stars. Cinemas are banned from showing new Hollywood movies. And offices and schools have been encouraged to snap up tickets.

But critics are skeptical about whether liberties were taken in depicting certain historical events. And questions remain as to why one female star won’t appear.

The film is known by the stilted English title “Beginning of the Great Revival” and is timed to celebrate the Communist Party’s 90th anniversary. It traces a time well-known to most Chinese: the fall of the last imperial dynasty in 1911 until the founding of the party in 1921.

The movie opens next Wednesday and will show on most of the country’s 6,000 screens. It is expected to draw about 300 million people over its run.

“We’re expecting a great turnout, especially with it being summer,” said Gao Jun, deputy general manager of Chinese theater operator New Film Association, in an interview with The Associated Press.

The movie features many of the Chinese film industry’s biggest names _ including Chow Yun-fat, Fan Bingbing and John Woo, who this week attended a red-carpet celebration of the movie. Woo, better known as a director of action movies, has a cameo.

The “Great Revival” shows the heft the authoritarian government wields even as China boasts a fast-growing commercial movie business as well as scores of television stations and entertainment websites.

“I think they tried to add a few things to make the big-ticket movies more attractive. One is increased drama and the others are new techniques and all-star casts,” said Jiang Xiaoyu, a Beijing based movie director and critic, in an interview with APTN.

“But these are just superficial and I believe the new generation of more rational audience members would like to see the real historical truth.”

The makers of the “Great Revival” are following the successful formula used for an earlier propaganda epic “The Founding of a Republic.”

That 2009 movie marked the 60th anniversary of the formation of the People's Republic of China. It made 415 million yuan ($61 million) at the box office as young audiences weary of traditional propaganda movies flocked to get a glimpse of the stars.

The movie featured action stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li; Hong Kong comedian Stephen Chow of “Kung Fu Hustle” fame; and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” star Zhang Ziyi.

To ensure success next week, as was the case in 2009, screenings of new Hollywood releases have been put on hold to reduce competition.

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” will not be released until about a month after its U.S. opening. “Kung Fu Panda 2” _ which is already in theaters _ gets to stay, though it’s unclear on how many screens.

After the Hollywood blockbuster “Avatar” became the highest-grossing film in China’s history two years ago, local theaters were ordered to remove the two-dimensional version in an effort to reduce competition for China’s homegrown films.

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