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STX Entertainment’s underperforming animated feature UglyDolls has locked down a belated release date in China.
The film, originally pegged for a China release on May 31, will now open in the Middle Kingdom on Aug. 8. No explanation for the delay was given, but the new date comes amid an escalation in trade tensions between the U.S. and China, which is already impacting the sale of smaller American films.
China’s Alibaba Pictures is a co-producer and co-financier of the film. Alibaba’s other recent collaborations with Hollywood have over-performed relative to both local market expectations and the films’ U.S. earnings — See: A Dog’s Purpose (2017) with $88 million in China compared to $65 million in North America; A Dog’s Journey (2019) at $28 million over $21 million stateside; and Oscar best picture winner Green Book, which brought in a whopping $71 million in China.
STX and UglyDolls could certainly use the help. The film, directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2) with a production budget of $45 million, has earned just $21 million worldwide since its May 3 release. The English-language version of the film features a voice cast starring Emma Roberts, Kelly Clarkson and Nick Jonas.
STX had hoped the feature would help launch a franchise spanning film, television, gaming and VR — all undergirded by lucrative merchandising sales. The UglyDoll IP began as a niche plush toy series created by David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim in 2001. STX positioned the brand to become a more mass market toy product through an international licensing deal signed with Hasbro in 2018.
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