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 and at