Luc Besson's beleaguered Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets got an ever-so-slight reprieve in China on Friday.
The troubled space opera finished its opening day at around $9.2 million, according to data from EntGroup. That puts it on track for an opening weekend of about $30 million — substantially stronger than Lucy's $20 million debut in 2014, which was Besson's last China outing. But it also looks to be one of the weaker wins of 2017 for a non-Chinese title — possibly better than fellow international disappointments Alien: Covenant ($28.2 million) and Ghost in the Shell ($21.4 million), but behind nearly every other major Hollywood releases in China this year.
Friday marked the first day in over a month that international movies could be found in local multiplexes, as Beijing lifted its annual summer blackout on Hollywood imports.
Valerian was accompanied out of the starting gate by Sony's Baby Driver, which crossed the first-day finish line in third place with $3.8 million, followed by Disney's Cars 3 in fourth with $3 million. Word of mouth for all three releases appeared reasonably solid as of late Friday, local time. Valerian had ratings of 6.8/10 on reviews site Douban and 8.2 on Weying, with Baby Driver scoring 7.5/10 and 8.1/10, and Cars 3 at 7/10 and 8.4/10, respectively.
After four consecutive weeks of unbridled dominance, Wu Jing's jingoistic action flick Wolf Warrior 2 slipped to second place, taking $3.9 million on its 30th day of release. The film's total now sits at a colossal $797 million — by far the biggest box-office haul ever in China.
Whether Valerian's first-place debut means it will earn nearly enough in the Middle Kingdom to allative its financial strain is another matter. With a production price tag of $180 million, Valerian is the most expensive indie film ever made — not including the additional $60 million that was reportedly spent on marketing and publicity. As recently as Wednesday, the film had earned just $132.8 million worldwide. Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk opens in China next Friday.