It was another bizarro weekend at the Chinese box office.
The long-anticipated return of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring finally arrived Friday in vividly remastered 4K. But official permission for the rerelease from China’s regulators came so late — just one full day in advance — that marketing for the movie was mostly nonexistent and scores of digital prints failed to reach cinemas on time, forcing a wave of cancelations and refunds to angry customers throughout Friday and into Saturday.
Japanese anime sequel Detective Conan: The Scarlet Bullet took immediate advantage of the logistical debacle, opening with a healthy $16.8 million to easily win the weekend, according to data from Artisan Gateway. The movie, directed by female animator Chika Nagaoka, is the twenty-fourth installment of Japan’s long-running Case Closed anime film series. The franchise is based on the famed manga series of the same name by Gosho Aoyama, whose work is familiar throughout much of Asia. The previous film in the franchise, Case Closed: The Fist of Blue Sapphire, earned $32.6 million in China in 2019.
The Fellowship of the Ring, meanwhile, limped into fifth place with just $4.1 million. The opening results for the fantasy classic are a keen disappointment compared to the recent performance of James Cameron’s Avatar, which opened to $23.7 million when it was rereleased in China in March. The perennial appeal of the Lord of the Rings franchise could help Fellowship mount a healthy hold though, much as Avatar did (Cameron’s film has climbed to $60.2 million in second-run sales). Warner Bros. also will get a do-over later this month — assuming all goes to plan (always a big “if” in China) — when Jackson’s The Two Towers re-releases on April 23. Regulators have indicated that the franchise closer The Return of the King will also get a second run in China, but the film — worryingly — still hasn’t been given an official release date.
Local drama Sister, from Lian Ray Pictures, came in second this weekend with $9.8 million for a strong running total of $119.5 million. Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros.’ Godzilla Vs. Kong scored third with $7 million in its fourth weekend, taking its total to $178.5 million. Scoring fourth was local romantic drama August Never Ends with a $6.2 million start.