China Box Office: 'Captain Marvel' Takes Flight With $89.3 Million

Captain Marvel Still 15 - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Marvel Studios
Marvel's first female-fronted superhero movie more than doubled the opening weekend of 'Wonder Woman' in China.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, made a heroic start at China's massive box office over the weekend, earning $89.3 million, according to studio estimates.

The tentpole's powerful launch represents Marvel's third-biggest opening weekend ever in the country, behind only Avengers: Infinity War and Captain America: Civil War. It was also China's biggest box office weekend ever in the month of March and Marvel's best stand-alone introduction of a new character, soaring past Black Panther's $66.5 million opening last year (only Sony's Venom and Warner Bros.' Aquaman have debuted new characters to more — $111 million and $93.6 million, respectively).

Captain Marvel more than doubled the China debut of Warner Bros.' Wonder Woman ($38 million), becoming the market's top comic book adaptation featuring a woman in the lead role. It didn't quite manage the biggest bow for a female-fronted film overall, however; that crown still belongs to Sony's Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, which debuted to an astonishing $94.3 million in 2016.

Captain Marvel was predictably strong across Imax's China network, earning $10.4 million from 603 of the exhibitor's giant screens. It was Imax's second-highest superhero opening in China and best-ever showing in the month of March.

Captain Marvel was especially huge on Friday, bringing in $34.3 million (counting $2.3 million in Thursday midnight previews), according to Asian box-office tracker Artisan Gateway. Somewhat puzzlingly, though, ticket sales grew by just 5 percent to $33.6 million on Saturday. Sunday's earnings then dipped to $21 million on Sunday, falling further than the Marvel norm.

Average word of mouth for the film is still solid — 8.8/10 on ticketing service Maoyan; 7/10 on reviews aggregator Douban — if not gushing. Market favorites like Avengers: Infinity War, Venom and Aquaman have scored slightly higher on both reviews platforms. Captain Marvel's scores have slid since Friday, too, suggesting hints of disappointment towards the title from some corners of the market. 

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel is set in 1995 and follows galactic warrior Vers as she flexes her powers and savvy when a battle between two alien races threatens Earth. Along the way, she discovers her true identity and past — along with fan-favorite Goose the cat.

The film also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Rune Temte, Algenis Perez Soto, Mckenna Grace, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg and Jude Law.

Larson will reprise her Captain Marvel role in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame.

Cruising in Captain Marvel's wake, Participant Media's awards season favorite Green Book achieved a phenomenal hold during its second weekend on Chinese screens. The Oscar best picture winner — which has been boosted in China by rave word of mouth — added $12.5 million, slipping just 27 percent from its $17 million opening, in spite of the powerhouse competition from Marvel. After 10 days in China, Green Book has earned $44.5 million and continues to chug along (For a breakdown of the overlapping factors that have made the prestige drama a huge earner in China, see here).

A Japanese anime film, Natsume's Book of Friends, meanwhile, opened in third place with $12.5 million (including $2.9 million of heavy previews). An adaptation of a hit manga, the Japanese import trounced Hollywood holdover How to Train Your Dragon 3, which slumped considerably during its second outing, adding $8.3 million for a two-weekend total of $48.1 million. Fox's Alita: Battle Angel landed in fifth, taking $5.6 million for a $128.1 million cumulative gross over three weekends.