Hollywood movies continue to underwhelm as the Chinese summer season runs its own course.
While “Barbie” was sizzling to box office records in North America and doing strong in many international territories, the pink phenomenon could only finish fifth in China, the world’s second-largest movie market, in its opening weekend.
“Barbie” managed $8.2 million in its three opening days, according to data from consulting firm Artisan Gateway.
Local box office sources show the film trapped in this position on all three days of the weekend session, with locally produced titles vying for leadership and swapping positions. Somewhat encouragingly, Barbie’s daily score had increased by Sunday as she was given more screening sessions by Chinese models.
“Barbie” joins a growing list of Hollywood films that have been disappointing at the Chinese box office this year. Other films include “The Little Mermaid,” “Indiana Jones,” and “Fast X.”
Hollywood films face fewer structural barriers in China (import and certification delays) than they have in recent years. But audiences are starting to turn out in smaller numbers for Western franchises, and this year has heavily rewarded Chinese and Japanese films instead. This has helped China’s box office recover to within 8% of pre-pandemic 2019.
The mainland Chinese box office during its recent weekend was headed by “Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms” (the first part of the “Fengshen Trilogy”), which took in $42.1 million. According to data from the consulting firm Artisan Gateway. Over four days it earned $53.7 million.
IMAX reported that “Creation of the Gods I” grossed $8.6 million on its screens in China over four days. That represented over 16% of the film’s nationwide total.
Despite its higher rating, First Creation of Gods had a shaky start. It opened on Thursday, a day ahead of most new releases in China, took second place on Friday and saw its screen count drop in subsequent days. Its total is likely to be disappointing given its ambitions.
Directed by Wuershan “(Colored Skin,” “Mojin: The Lost Legend”), the “Fengshen Trilogy” is set to be a colossal blend of history, folklore, and myth from more than 3,000 years ago that would be China’s answer to both “The Lord of the Rings” and “Iron Man.” It managed to retain the services of Barrie Osborne (“Lord of the Rings”) as production consultant and Bill Kong (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) as executive producer, and at one point, it aimed for a budget of more than $400 million for the three pictures.
During its last weekend box office run, it was closely followed by “Chang An” (aka “Chang An 30,000 Miles”), a Chinese animated film in its third weekend of release and grossed $40.6 million. 16 days after its release, “Chang An” has already collected $168 million, making it one of the best Chinese animated titles of all time.
Third place belongs to “Wonder Family” (aka “Advancing of ZQ”), a vivid fantasy about a man who discovers a financial instrument and the enemies who want it for themselves. It scored $31.3 million in its opening three days. The film is the latest production from Mahua FunAge, a comedy troupe that has become a steady producer of blockbuster comedy films, including the earlier “Moon Man.”
“Never Say Never,” written and directed by actor Wang Baoqiang (“Lost in Thailand,” “Detective Chinatown”), slipped to fourth place, with $20.6 million on hand over three days. It has now accumulated $261 million after 18 days of release.
The weekend box office total was $168 million, pushing the overall total to $4.63 billion. Artisan Gateway calculates that as being up about 70% from the same point last year.
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