‘Cold War’ Off to Hot Start in China


Follow me on Twitter @robcain or Sina Weibo @robcain, or connect with me on LinkedIn.By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

November 13, 2012

The Hong Kong cops and robber thriller Cold War got off to a hot start last week with a $15.4 million 4-day debut, enough to make it the 3rd best Chinese language opener of 2012 and 12th best among all PRC debuts this year. For first-time writer-director Sunny Luk and his all-star cast, Cold War warmed up what had been a moribund Chinese box office, marking the strongest opening for any film on the mainland since Expendables 2 knocked off $25 million in its opening weekend two months ago.

 

Produced and distributed by Bill Kong’s EDKO Films and starring Aaron Kwok, Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Byron Mann and Aarif Lee, Cold War will likely rack up another strong week before serious competition shows up at Chinese theaters, with the 3D re-release of 2012 arriving on November 20th and Life of Pi drifting in on the 22nd. Mega-director Feng Xiaogang’s Back to 1942 will almost certainly freeze out Cold War when it debuts on November 29th.

Reaching $31 million in its third week, The Bourne Legacy is now Universal’s 2nd best performer in China this year after the surprise hit Battleship. With a few more weeks left in its run, Bourne should easily surpass the low end of the $35 million to $50 million range that I had predicted for it.

Wreck-it Ralph’s 6-day opening tally of $5 million continues Disney/Pixar’s long string of misfires in China. The only consolation for Wreck-It Ralph is that it didn’t open as poorly as Brave, which managed a tepid $4.6 million over its entire PRC run back in June. Disney/Pixar’s last truly successful animation release in the PRC was more than two years ago when Toy Story 3 tallied a then respectable $16 million box office total over its 4-week run in 2010.

 

Bait 3D wound up its extraordinary run by biting off another $500,000 to finish at $25.7 million, by far the best performance ever in China for an Australian film, and the biggest gross for any non-Hollywood import.

Aggregate weekly national box office was $39.3 million, down 23 percent relative to the same week last year. But the year-to-date tally of $2.13 billion is already 3 percent ahead of the full-year total for 2011, and with 7 weeks left in the year, China is well on its way to setting yet another annual box office record.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com.

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Horror Claws Its Way Into China’s Movie Theaters


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By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

November 6, 2012

In what is assuredly an all-time first, two horror films ranked among the 5 top grossers at the Chinese box office last week. Although the horror genre has been rather a rarity at PRC multiplexes, due in large part to SARFT censorship strictures, the tide may now be turning for them. Chinese censors have been noticeably friendlier of late to violent and even gory low-budget horror flicks, and audiences have been showing up for them in increasing numbers.

Fewer than a dozen horror films have unspooled in Chinese theaters in the past two years, so two such films screening at the same time feels like a veritable gore-fest. The two pictures are the Australian shark attack thriller Bait 3D, which at a $25 million cume is easily the highest-grossing horror film in China’s history (I’ve made the admittedly subjective judgment call of classifying Prometheus as a sci-fi thriller), and the new French entry Derrière les Murs, a period horror-thriller about a young female novelist who isolates herself in the countryside to write her new book. Before long the writer is haunted by visions and nightmares while the villagers grow worried as several little girls mysteriously disappear.

Derrière’s$2.2 million opening weekend tally may not seem like much, but it’s good enough to rank as China’s fifth best horror debut of the year, and among the country’s top ten horror grossers of all time. Given the encouraging signs, now may be a good time for American and other foreign horror-meisters to sharpen up their fangs and take a bite of China’s booming film business.

In other multiplex action, The Bourne Legacy held off the Chinese action movie Taichi 2 to retain the number one spot for the second week in a row.  Total Recall slipped to third, adding $4.5 million to what is now a nearly $17 million cume.

Nationwide admissions totaled 6.4 million, and aggregate box office was $33.6 million, flat compared with the same week last year. New openers this week include the star-heavy Chinese action film Cold War, which opened today, and Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, which rolls out on Thursday.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com.

Shark Horror Flick Takes a Big Bite Out of China’s Box Office


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By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

October 16, 2012

For only the 2nd time in history a foreign film—namely the Australian horror-thriller Bait 3D—has opened to bigger numbers in China than in North America.

With its $8 million 3-day weekend China debut, Bait is running 30 percent ahead of its North American opening, and will likely run up a bigger final tally in China than the $15.3 million it has taken in stateside.

The first time a foreign film achieved such a feat was this past Spring when Titanic 3D logged a massive debut and finished up with a $154 million final gross, nearly three times its U.S. total. The difference this time is that Bait is a new release with virtually zero pre-awareness.

Bait has also set a new bar for horror releases this year, and depending on whether one considers Resident Evil 4 a horror film, Bait would qualify as either the biggest or second biggest debut ever for a horror flick in the PRC.

With a director and cast you’ve probably never heard of, and with an outlandish plot that involves a group of shoppers who are trapped by a freak tsunami in a submerged grocery store amongst a bloodthirsty group of great white sharks, one could be forgiven for thinking Bait an unlikely hit. But it seems that Chinese audiences were attracted to Bait’s combination of 3D with action and gore just like, well, like sharks are attracted to blood in the water. Producer Gary Hamilton of Arclight Films was delighted with the picture’s performance and tells me he’s planning a sequel.

Also noteworthy about this week’s box office chart is that it was the first time I can recall when the #1 and #2 films in China were both non-U.S. foreign films. Although foreign films took a 64 percent share of the weekly box office, U.S. films accounted for just 13 percent.

This doesn’t bode well for Hollywood’s studios, most of which remain bizarrely under-invested and under-represented in what has long been the world’s fastest-growing movie market. All year I’ve been warning that unless the studios begin to meet the Chinese halfway they risk getting squeezed out of this mammoth territory, and with each passing week it’s looking increasingly likely that’s precisely what’s happening.

Two other foreign entries, The Expatriate and The Cold Light of Day, didn’t fare nearly as well as the 3D fish tale, with both of the former films netting around $1 million or less. The next foreign debut in China is also a non-studio film, U.K.-based Working Title’s Anna Karenina, which opens today. It won’t be until the end of the month before another Hollywood studio film, The Bourne Legacy, makes an appearance in China.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com