Red Corner

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    [Total: 4 Average: 2.5]
    • Directed By: Jon Avnet
    • Written By: Robert King
    • Release Date: Oct 31, 1997
    • Domestic Distributor: MGM
    • Cast: Richard Gere, Bai Ling, Bradley Whitford

Box Office Info:
Budget: $49 million Financed by: MGM
Domestic Gross: $22,459,274 Overseas Gross: $13,300,000

red corner 1997
In 1996 there was a production hiatus at MGM, while Kirk Kerkorian was in the process of purchasing the studio for the third time and almost all of the lion’s 1997 releases were output deals for other companies or inherited titles from their purchase of Orion Pictures and Goldwyn Entertainment.  Of the 13 pictures that MGM theatrically released in 1997, only three were in-house productions — Red Corner, the flop Hoodlum and the Bond picture Tomorrow Never Dies.

The budget for Red Corner was set by MGM in two ways — if the movie was approved by the Chinese government to be filmed in China, the budget would be $49 million and if the production had to erect massive sets in the United States to replicate China, the budget would be $54 million.  The film was shot in the states, but MGM refused to sign off on the contract that increased the budget to $54 million and on the 21st day of production, director Jon Avnet filed a lawsuit against MGM.  The unsigned contract also awarded Avnet final cut and with it unsigned, his edit would be vulnerable to interference from executives.  There were no further updates to the lawsuit back in the ’90s but the budget figure for Red Corner at the time of release was reported as $49 million.  After the movie flopped, MGM CFO Michael Corrigan announced a $30 million loss for Red Corner.

There were three topical pictures in 1997 that criticized human rights violations from China — Red Corner, Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet.  Seven Years was the only movie of the bunch to come close to a break even point.  MGM first dated Red Corner for November 26 but it was then moved to October 31.  Richard Gere began to tell the press that the new release dated was chosen to coincide with Chinese President Jiang Zemin set to visit the United States on October 27 to November 3 but MGM began to shy away from the politics surrounding the film and claimed the new date had nothing to do with Jiang Zemin.  A small bit of publicity also came from actress Bai Ling having her Chinese citizenship revoked for participating in this movie.

MGM did heavily market the movie and it bowed against Switchback.  Red Corner landed terrible reviews, many of which criticized the picture as bad melodrama and xenophobic propaganda and it opened well below estimates at $7,403,362 — placing #2 for the weekend led by the holdover I Know What You Did Last Summer.  The domestic run closed with only $22,459,274.  MGM would see returned about $12.3M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — far below P&A costs and the budget would not be touched by the theatrical receipts.  Overseas numbers were a small $13.3M

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