China Box Office: 'Jason Bourne,' 'Ice Age: Collision Course' Neck-and-Neck as Hollywood Releases Return After Blackout Period
The two studio titles are the first U.S. films after China's annual period designed to protect domestic releases, which was shortened this year after the country's box office suffered a surprising downturn.
Universal's spy thriller Jason Bourne slipped past Fox's Ice Age: Collision Course to win the weekend at the Chinese box office as Hollywood fare returned to the world's No. 2 movie market in force following a shorter-than-usual summer blackout on foreign imports.
Jason Bourne opened Tuesday to $11.8 million, a single-day high for the Bourne franchise in China. A brief public relations dust-up over a special 3D version of the film then ensued, with some viewers alleging that the 3D conversion of director Paul Greengrass' kinetic film left them feeling dizzy and nauseated. But the social media maelstrom didn't seem to put much of a dent in its box office, as Jason Bourne earned a healthy $23.8 million from Friday to Sunday, bringing its six-day China total to approximately $50 million, according to Universal's tally (Beijing-based box-office tracker Ent Group's estimate was $49 million).
Every film in the Bourne franchise has received a release in China, and the installments' performances have loosely tracked the steady rise of the country's theatrical market: The Bourne Identity brought in $1.9 million in 2002; The Bourne Supremacy (2004) grossed $1.8 million; The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) made $3 million; and The Bourne Legacy surged to $16.1 million in 2012.
Fox's latest Ice Age film debuted head-to-head with Jason Bourne on Tuesday, opening at $8.3 million before climbing slightly to come in just a notch below the Matt Damon starrer from Friday to Sunday with $23 million. Collision Course's total was $42.5 million after six days, according to Fox ($42.6 million, according to Ent Group).
The two Hollywood imports brought some much-needed vitality to the Chinese market, which has been sagging badly compared to the same period last year. The weekend before Jason Bourne and Collision Course came to market, China's box office pulled in just $61.8 million, the weakest frame this summer. Total box office in July was down 18 percent year-over-year.
The two films also marked the conclusion of this summer's abridged blackout on Hollywood imports. China's movie regulators have traditionally kept imported competition out of the market during the peak moviegoing weeks of summer, boosting local studios by giving Chinese titles more space to perform.
Last year's summer blackout ran June 19 to Aug. 23. But this summer's "domestic movie protection period," as the blackouts are sometimes called, was cut short by a smattering of Hollywood releases. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was granted a July 2 release date, The Legend of Tarzan opened July 19 and The Secret Life of Pets was set for Aug. 2. Many have interpreted the loosening of protectionism as an acknowledgement that China's industry needed help to stave off an even more embarrassing plummet in growth (for more on the country's recent box-office slowdown and the forces behind it, see this analysis).
Coming in behind the two U.S. studio films, Hong Kong police thriller Line Walker earned $4.6 million from Friday to Sunday, taking its total to $84 million after 18 days on release. And Le Vision Pictures' fantasy adventure Time Raiders, China's biggest local hit of the summer, added $2 million for a 24-day cumulative gross of $146.4 million.
Star Trek Beyond opens Friday in China, following an aggressive local marketing blitz.