The incorporation of Chinese elements in the Hollywood blockbuster Transformers: Age of Extinction has backfired as a scenic spot in Chongqing threatened to sue the film's associated producer for failing to show its logo in the film.
Chongqing Wulong Karst Tourism Group, which operates the Wulong Scenic Area, said the film's associated Chinese production company, m1905.com, didn't honor a contract that required the logo of the scenic spot on the big screen as a product placement.
"We are disappointed because we are not even close to our targets of promotions," said Li Chu, a marketing manager at the company. Li said the failure to incorporate the scenic area's logo has confused some audiences.
"We did a survey of foreign audiences, which showed that very few of them knew that the film was shot in our scenic area. Some even mistook the scene for Hong Kong," he said.
Li said the company is in negotiations with m1905.com and Paramount Pictures to reach a solution. "If we fail to compromise on a proposal that could remedy our loss, we will resort to legal procedures," he said.
This is the second dispute between Chinese commercial partners and Paramount.
Last month, Pangu Estate, the operator of a five-building complex known as Pangu Plaza in Beijing, also threatened to terminate a promotional contract with two commercial partners of Paramount after the film was said to have fallen short of the company's expectations. The company later reached a compromise with Paramount and its two Chinese partners.
Chen Zhe, a staff member at Paramount's Chinese office, said on Sunday the company would not comment on the issue.
A company executive with m1905.com, who requested anonymity, said Paramount has admitted that failing to show the Wulong logo was a mistake in the film production process.
He said that the tourism company had postponed paying the money for more than five months and this had shortened the production period.
Meanwhile, the fact the production team of the film did not know Chinese has also caused the problem, he said.
"We want to solve the dispute through negotiations," he said.
However, Li, the manager of the scenic spot, said the company made the payment as outlined in the contract.
Li said the company closed the Three Natural Bridges for a week in October to shoot the film after a request from the production company. It also paid another 6 million yuan ($967,000) to have its name displayed in the film.
"We just wonder why all the other cities have their names tagged in the film except us," he said in response to claims that the production team does not know Chinese.
In the latest meeting between the parties, Paramount has offered to remedy the mistake in all the DVDs that were issued globally, and produce a 30-second promotional video for the scenic area, according to the company executive from m1905.com.
"The video would include how Michael Bay, the director, hails the scenery in Wulong and how the scenic spot appears in the film," he said.
Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth installment in the robot franchise, has been an enormous success in China, grossing more than 1 billion yuan since it debuted on June 27, China News Service reported.
The film has scenes shot in Beijing, Tianjin and Hong Kong, and lined up a cast of Chinese stars, including Li Bingbing. The film has also given exposure to at least six Chinese brands that are eager to use the film to showcase its products.