China’s cinemas are now into their third week of reopening after a novel coronavirus enforced lockdown in January, and theatrical companies are operating with limits on the number of screens and with strict social distancing measures in place. Since the restart, China’s box office numbers have been modest, and this weekend saw more of the same with a $17 million total gross according to local box office consultancy Artisan Gateway.
Dreamwork’s 1917, distributed in China by Alibaba Pictures, took the top spot with a $5.2 million debut. The film, which was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won three earlier this year, had its long-delayed premiere in Beijing last Tuesday. The ‘one-take’ war movie has received strong critical praise from Chinese media and has a 8.5/10 rating from over 200,000 reviews on the popular media review platform Douban. Critics and China’s netizens have talked up the technical accomplishments of the film and the need to see it in the cinema.
The rerelease of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar continues to perform well despite the difficult operating environment. Debuting last Sunday with $2.8 million, Interstellar made $4.2 million in its second weekend to take second place, its gross once again boosted by its presence in higher priced IMAX theaters. Including its original run, the 2014 sci-fi epic, which stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, has now made $119.5 million in China.
Interstellar‘s strong performance and Nolan’s name recognition in China bodes well for the Middle Kingdom release of his high concept sci-fi movie Tenet, which has cleared the country’s censors and is set to be released on Sept. 4.
Universal’s Dolittle made another $2 million this weekend to secure third place for an impressive 17-day cume of $15.9 million proving that Robert Downey Jr’s star power in China stretches beyond Marvel movies. Despite its strong showing in China since the restricted restart, its performance is unlikely to add too much to the film’s overall global total. Produced for a hefty $175 million, Dolittle bombed disastrously in North America, and had a worldwide gross of $230.5 million prior to its China release.
In fourth place is the rerelease of Sam Quah’s 2019 crime drama Sheep Without a Shepherd which made $2 million and now has a cume of $184.4 million in China.
Rounding out the top five was the long-delayed release of James Mangold’s motor racing biopic Ford V. Ferrari which had a modest $1.1 million debut. Like other recent speciality releases such as Jojo Rabbit, Ford V. Ferrari had received strong praise from critics in China and high marks on Douban, but that didn’t translate into stronger box office.
Next weekend will see couple of big Hollywood tentpoles open in China, including the delayed release of Bad Boys For Life and rerelease of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.