Director Chloe Zhao’s 2017 film “The Rider” has been approved to screen in China via a limited theatrical release through the country’s National Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas, the org said on Tuesday. A specific release date has not yet been set.

Zhao is fresh off her win of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, where her road movie “Nomadland,” starring Frances McDormand, garnered her sweeping acclaim and the top prize. It simultaneously premiered at Toronto.

Unable to travel to Venice because of the pandemic, Zhao and McDormand accepted the accolade remotely from Los Angeles.

Variety chief film critic Peter Debruge called “Nomadland,” Zhao’s third film, a “rich and resonant celebration of the American West” that “straddles the border between fact and fiction,” and “The Rider,” Zhao’s second, a “micro-masterpiece.” The former is already garnering awards-season buzz, with hopes that Zhao could become the first woman of color to be nominated for best director at the Oscars.

“The Rider” premiered at Cannes back in 2017. Its emotional story, as well as Zhao’s Beijing roots and recent prize, will likely help the title resonate strongly with Chinese audiences, meaning that a theatrical sortie in the world’s second-largest film market could breathe new life into an old title. “The Rider” has grossed just $3.4 million in theaters over its lifetime, almost all from North America. Its largest overseas market to date is France, where it grossed just $650,000.

Strong Chinese ticket sales last year for prize-winning foreign arthouse fare bode well for its China prospects. Last spring, Lebanese director Nadine Labaki’s Cannes jury prize-winning “Capernaum” became an unexpected breakout hit in China, grossing $54 million — nearly 20 times more than it did in any other country.

In March, the Oscar-winning Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” made $14 million through a limited release via the NAAC.


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