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Chinese filmgoers have hit the brakes on Justin Lin’s F9. The Universal tentpole downshifted 85 percent in its second weekend, earning just $20.8 million compared to its $136 million roaring opening weekend.
After two laps, the Vin Diesel/John Cena action flick has totaled $185.3 million. That’s slightly ahead of where franchise spinoff Hobbs & Shaw was sitting at a similar point in its China run, but far weaker than the preceding franchise mainstays Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious, which topped out at $390.9 million in 2015 and $392.8 million in 2017, respectively. Chinese ticketing app Maoyan currently projects F9 to finish at $211.9 million — certainly not a number to scoff at but far inferior to the franchise’s recent heights, especially since China’s theatrical market is back to full earning capacity (see the $825 million earned by local comedy hit Hi, Mom in February).
Whether John Cena’s humiliating Taiwan/China gaff has had anything to do with F9‘s weak legs in the Middle Kingdom is difficult to determine. The Chinese market tends to be far more front-loaded and sensitive to real-time word of mouth than most territories, and F9 has been hit by withering reviews from the start. Its social scores are 7.5 on Maoyan and 5.5 on Douban — lower than most major titles released this year. Still, earlier in its run the film was forecasted to earn significantly more, and Cena’s public relations debacle certainly hasn’t helped. The former wrestler referred to Taiwan as a country during a promotional interview, and then issued a groveling apology to outraged nationalistic Chinese fans — for which he subsequently was widely derided in the West.
Japanese anime import Stand by Me Doraemon 2 opened in second place with $16.3 million, topping Paramount’s horror sequel A Quiet Place 2, which debuted with $15 million, according to data from Artisan Gateway. The John Krasinski-directed sequel has been met with a somewhat middling response from critics and filmgoers in China — 7.7 on Maoyan and 6.8 from Douban — despite generating strong reviews in the U.S. But it’s still tracking closely to its predecessor, which opened with $17.5 million and finished with $34.5 million. Maoyan forecasts the sequel to top out at $32.3 million.
Fourth place went to Chinese romance Love Will Tear Us Apart, which earned $5.2 million for a $42.4 million total after 11 days in theaters. Zhang Yimou’s spy thriller Cliff Walkers fell from third place to fifth with a $4.2 million weekend. After four weeks in cinemas, the film has reached $172 million, demonstrating the enduring box office appeal of the Chinese filmmaking veteran.
To date, China’s box office has generated $3.97 billion in total ticket sales in 2021, just 5.7 percent behind the market’s $4.21 billion running total at the same time in 2019.
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