Next year, two faces familiar to Western audiences will appear on the large screens in China as former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and bumbling British TV character Mr. Bean join the cast of two productions from world's second largest economy.
First up is Russian-Chinese fantasy flick Viy-2 with action stars Schwarzenegger and Hong Kong's Jackie Chan. It was shot in China on a budget of $48 million, according to media reports.
As for Mr. Bean, actor Rowan Atkinson will appear in character in a movie aptly entitled Top Funny Comedian: The Movie that is based on a popular reality TV show. Atkinson dons a rooster's comb on his head alongside the Chinese cast in the movie poster—to usher in the Chinese New Year of the rooster that starts in late January.
Best known for campy antics in a 1990s British sitcom, Mr.Bean is a popular character in China. He has previously visited China to interact with fans and has also starred in an advertisement for the Snickers chocolate bar.
The actual screen-time for all three actors has not been announced.
Whether the appearance of international celebrities in these Chinese productions will propel the movies to the box office stratosphere remains to be seen. Mega productions featuring "Chinese elements" that seek to appeal to audiences have met a mixed reception.
The Great Wall, an action packed move starting Matt Damon opened to lackluster reviews the weekend before Christmas, although it grossed $66 million.
China is tipped to overtake U.S. as the top movie market in 2017, presenting new opportunities for an entertainment industry that is still trying to figure out how to lure audiences in the country.
Celebrities past the prime of their careers from Hong Kong and Taiwan in particular have enjoyed a revival in their careers on the mainland.
China is also the key market for South Korean pop culture exports, with soap operas and pop music regular hogging the trending topics list on the Weibo microblog.
The use of foreign actors in Asian productions and advertising is not unique to China.
Since the 1980s, visitors to Japan would gawk at campy advertisements (but lucrative) featuring megastars from the West who would not be caught dead in similar productions back home.
Well known entertainers such as Beyonce and Schwarzenegger, and even filmmaker Quentin Tarantino have appeared in Japanese commercials hawking anything from video games to energy drinks.