'Astro Boy' bombs in Japan, takes off in China

Breaks 'Ice Age 3' record, but run already done in Japan

TOKYO -- Imagi Entertainment's "Astro Boy" bombed in Japan, but Chinese viewers seem to have taken a liking to the Japanese cartoon character.

After opening on more than 200 screens on the weekend of Oct. 10-12, "Astro Boy" pulled in a disappointing $328,457 in its first week, an average of just over $1,500 per screen, to put it at the bottom of the week's rankings. For comparison, the same week's top film, NTV's "Kaiji," took over $4 million from just over 300 screens at an average of over $13,200.

If distributor Kadokawa was hoping for a slow burner, it was to be disappointed as "Atom," as it was titled locally, dropped out of the top 10 and out of sight the following week. The latest overseas adaptation of a much-loved manga and TV series, it looks to have gone the way of other recent attempts such as the live-action versions of "Speed Racer" and "Dragonball Evolution," which both failed to ignite the boxoffice in the land of their origin.

However, in China, "Astro Boy" set an opening weekend boxoffice record in China for a CG-animated movie, taking 40 million yuan ($5.9 million) on about 1,100 screens, Imagi said in a statement. It broke the mark set previously by "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," which opened with 30 million yuan.

The stratospheric opening of "Astro Boy" in China was helped by the recent dominance of "The Founding of a Republic." Since it opened in late September, neither foreign films nor children's fare has been available at Chinese cinemas, with Pixar's "Up" the last release for the underage set.

"Astro Boy" distributor for China Enlight Pictures president Zhang Zhao declined to comment when reached by telephone, referring THR back to the boxoffice numbers Imagi released in its statement.

Jonathan Landreth and Steven Schwankert in Beijing contributed to this report.