By Robert Cain for China Film Biz
January 22, 2013
Skyfall opened on Monday in China on nearly 5,500 screens, which makes it the widest release ever in the PRC. But a nearly 3-month delay in its release, widespread piracy, and mixed-to-poor word of mouth among theatergoers doomed the Bond film to a disappointing $5.1 million opening-day mainland gross.
Sunday’s midnight screenings also fell below expectations at roughly $300,000. It now appears unlikely that Skyfall will come anywhere close to matching the take of last year’s first big Hollywood release, Mission Impossible 4, which opened in January, 2012 and went on to a final gross of $102 million.
As China’s film business has grown and as its audience has broadened deeply into the second and third-tier cities, it has become increasingly difficult to guess how the country’s audiences will respond to individual films. Skyfall seemed a natural given last year’s successes of action blockbusters like Mission Impossible, The Avengers, and Men in Black III. But to paraphrase the late, great Yogi Berra, “If people don’t want to come out to the theater, nobody’s going to stop them.”
Among the common complaints I found on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, were that the film’s rhythm was too slow and that there were too few action scenes. Some exclaimed that they felt “completely robbed.” Never mind that the film was both a critical and commercial smash in the rest of the world, it will severely under-index in the PRC.
Other recent surprises include the $13 million haul taken in the week ending January 20th by Bona’s Bring Happiness Home, a spin-off of a popular Chinese cable TV show that nearly knocked Grandmaster out of its number one spot. And the animation team at Shanghai Hippo, creators of the Animen films, must have been sorely disappointed by the tepid reception to their latest animated film Jungle Master, which grossed only $800,000 in its first 6 days.
With audiences continually defying expectations in recent months, both to the upside and to the downside, 2013 looks to be an eventful and unpredictable year 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.pacificbridgepics.com.