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Despite getting declawed by 14 minutes of cuts from Beijing’s censors, 20th Century Fox’s Logan ripped its way into China over the weekend, opening to $48.9 million.
The Hugh Jackman-led superhero pic clobbered The Lego Batman Movie, which also debuted Friday and earned a miniscule $3.7 million for the weekend, according to estimates from Ent Group. Fellow new release A Dog’s Purpose fared somewhat better, panting its way to $17.4 million and second place.
Logan and Lego Batman‘s opposite fates could almost be viewed as a case study for Hollywood fare that does and doesn’t work in today’s massive Chinese movie market.
A grand action flick with a potent emotional core, Logan is just the kind of studio tentpole that transcends China’s diversifying demographics to put up big numbers. Its innovative take on the superhero genre has something fresh to offer the increasingly sophisticated viewers of China’s first- tier cities, while its gritty action and emotionally direct story easily appeal to the less cosmopolitan moviegoers of the country’s more provincial regions, which now make up the majority of the market.
China’s film bureau subjects most imported R-rated movies to cuts before granting them a local release. Logan, directed by James Mangold and the third X-Men spinoff movie featuring Wolverine, also had the distinction of being the first film affected by China’s new film industry law, which went into effect March 1.
Among the new regulation’s many clauses, Article 20 states that films which “could be physically or psychologically inappropriate” for minors must carry a warning. Even after its nudity and much of its violence were excised, Logan‘s local marketing materials were required to carry a new advisory stating that “elementary and preschool children must be accompanied by a parent or guardians” (elementary school concludes around age 12 in China). But the warning appears to have had little effect. Some local commentators have even suggested that the novelty of the disclaimer may have boosted Logan‘s action bona fides among local teens and other young people.
The Lego Batman Movie, by contrast, appears to have been lost permanently in translation. Although Legos are a fixture of the nostalgia firmament throughout the West — and even in Japan — the colorful blocks are relatively new to the Chinese consumer landscape (the Danish toy maker opened its first Chinese factory and a flagship store in Shanghai last year). On top of the missing nostalgia factor — which undoubtedly played a big part in Lego Batman pulling in just shy of $150 million in North America — the film’s quip-heavy humor didn’t translate so well in China. “The Justice League banter was totally unfamiliar to most,” an exec working with one of the Hollywood studios in Beijing tells THR.
Lego Batman also was beaten by Sony’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, which added $17.7 million, bringing its China total to $138 million after two frames. The Screen Gems/Constantin film was released in China through Constantin Film’s local partner Leomus Pictures. China’s censors also sliced seven minutes off The Final Chapter, but that didn’t stop viewers from turning out in droves for the last installment in the zombie video game franchise.
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