We've Got Hollywood Covered

Village Roadshow COO Explains Why Arbitrary Rules in China May Impact Keanu Reeves’ Directorial Debut

The studio promoted Velkes to chief operating officer on Thursday

Matthew Velkes ascended on Thursday to the position of chief operating officer of Village Roadshow Pictures Entertainment, and, after visiting his daughter at Cornell, his first task will be figuring out what's happening with Keanu Reeves' directorial debut, "Man of Tai Chi."

Velkes, who has served as chief financial officer for the last six years, will now be more involved with Warner Bros., the company's distribution partner, as well as Village Roadshow Pictures Asia (VRPA), the subsidiary of the company focused on Chinese language films. 

VRPA's first two movies, “Journey to the West: Conquering Demons” and “Say Yes!,” both set box office records in China earlier this year. Its next film, "Man of Tai Chi," will open over the summer.

Velkes said VRPA, Universal, which will distribute the film in most territories, and China Film, its Chinese distributor, may shift the film's release date to take advantage of a blackout period in China. A Universal spokeswoman said they are negotiating the date right now.

"The current dating is somewhere around June in China, but it's changing," Velkes said. "We'd like to take advantage of a blackout period."

Also Read: Why Hollywood Studios Need to Learn Chinese

There is often a certain time of year where the country’s film board doesn’t Hollywood movies to play. However, since Chinese movies have dominated the box office in the first few months of 2013, it’s always possible there may be no blackout this year.

“With China it’s very dynamic and they can change rules all the time,” Velkes said. “You deal with arbitrary periods of blacking out Hollywood. It’s very hard to do business like that.”

Not that he’s complaining.

“We have no illusions about the difficulties of doing business there. We’re going in eyes wide open.”

Village Roadshow has co-financed and produced more than 70 films over the last two decades, almost all of which Warner Bros. has distributed. Thanks to more than $1 billion in new financing, the studio is ready to return to making seven or eight films a year, and Velkes told TheWrap that it has set nine or 10 new films with Warner Bros. That figure includes previously announced projects like “All You Need Is Kill” and “Lego: The Motion Picture,” but it also includes some previously unannounced films.

Velkes declined to elaborate, as the company is not ready to announce them.

“We still have a very specific mandate in terms of what films we want to make – movies that perform globally,” Velkes said. “We have a bias for films that perform overseas.”

Velkes said the new capital could also enable Village Roadshow to seize upon new opportunities and invest in new businesses – without distracting from its core business.

“With disruption always comes opportunity, but we’re pretty confident that sticking to our core competency will get us what we need.”