'War for the Planet of the Apes' to Open in China Two Months Late

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
'War for the Planet of the Apes'

'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,' the preceding film in the franchise, pulled in a healthy $107 million from China, but the late dating could hurt the new film's earnings.

21st Century Fox's critically acclaimed franchise closer War for the Planet of the Apes has finally landed a release date in China — some two months after its North American debut.

Imax China announced Tuesday that the threequel will open on Sept 15, releasing on 430 Imax screens, as well as in other formats.

The rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise has enjoyed a strong track record in China — Rise of the Planet of the Apes earned $31 million back in 2011, followed by $107 million for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014 — but the late dating could diminish the final installment's fortunes somewhat.

For most of 2017, Hollywood films have debuted in China day-and-date with North America, or shortly after — a boon to the studios, as simultaneous scheduling tends to boost global marketing momentum, while also warding against piracy.

But Beijing's annual summer blackout policy (also known as "domestic film industry protection month"), in which only Chinese films are allowed to be shown in theaters, has left a raft of big studio titles stuck at the gate. Among them: Luc Besson's Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Disney's Cars 3 and Sony's Baby Driver will all open weeks late and head-to-head on Aug. 25, followed by Warner Bros.' Dunkirk and Sony's Spider-Man: Homecoming opening a month and half behind schedule in early September. 

U.S. and Chinese trade officials are currently engaged in a closely watched renegotiation of Beijing's many protectionist policies in the entertainment sector. The U.S., with the MPAA's urging, is understood to be pushing for China to give up its blackout tactics, along with the quota on film imports and other mechanisms in the protectionist toolkit.

In the meantime, Beijing's policy is having the desired effect. Local patriotic action flick Wolf Warrior 2, from Beijing Culture, Bona Film Group and Wanda Film, opened in the midst of the blackout on July 27. It has since earned an astonishing $712 million, an all-time high for the Chinese market. The scale of the film's success suggests it is a singular phenomenon that would have fared just fine against a new Spider-Man, final Apes film, or Christopher Nolan master-class — but in the absence of open competition, the jury remains out.

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