'Blade Runner 2049' Secures China Release Date (Exclusive)

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment
'Blade Runner 2049'

A disappointing North American debut has placed added pressure on the major Asian territories where the film has yet to open, led by the massive China market.

Blade Runner 2049 has locked down a release date in China, the world's second-largest film market.

The Denis Villeneuve-directed sequel will open across the Middle Kingdom on Nov. 10, sources close to state distributor Chain Film Group tell THR.

Co-financed by Alcon Entertainment and Sony, Blade Runner 2049 disappointed during its North American debut, despite strong reviews and an A- CinemaScore. The film finished first but grossed just $31.5 million — a shaky start for a movie that cost $150 million to make after tax rebates and incentives. Internationally, the picture performed better, taking a solid, if unspectacular, $50.2 million.

All of which places extra pressure on the major Asia territories where the film has yet to open, including China, Japan and South Korea. The film is set for Oct. 12 in South Korea and Oct. 27 in Japan, but an opening in the highly regulated China market was previously unknown. 

To get a save from China, Blade Runner will have to perform more like Christopher Nolan's Interstellar ($122 million) than Villeneuve's Arrival ($15.8 million). Sci-fi is a hard-to-gauge genre in the Middle Kingdom. Some titles — such as The Martian ($94.9 million) and Pacific Rim ($111.9 million) — have overperformed, while others, notably fantasy sequels with heavy backstories (think Star Wars and Star Trek), have done less well. Sony's Passengers made only $45.2 million in China earlier this year, but had a particularly bad pre-holiday release date working against it.

Ridley Scott's original Blade Runner, although an incomparably influential cult classic, never got a theatrical release in China, as all foreign films were barred from import back in 1982. The film does have a high 8.1 rating on local movie buff reviews site Douban, but it's hard to predict how that will translate across the full commercial landscape. The sequel's long runtime —163 minutes — and slow pacing could be causes for concern.

One point of encouragement: The Nov. 10 release date places Blade Runner's opening one day prior to Singles Day, China's nationwide anti-Valentine's Day, when single young people celebrate their solo status by treating themselves with online shopping and social outings with friends. The Nov. 11 holiday — named for its "lone sticks" numeral look (11.11) — has also come to be known as "Bachelors Day," due to China's gender imbalance and the preponderance of single young men. Given that Blade Runner 2049 has been skewing heavily male (71 percent in North America), the Bachelor's Day bow could be something of a boon.