China Box Office: 'The Martian' Rockets to $50 Million, 'Mockingjay 2' Disappoints
Ridley Scott's space survival saga has been embraced by Chinese film fans, while 'Spectre' and 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2' are hit by bad word of mouth.
Matt Damon and Ridley Scott's The Martian made a smooth descent into China over the weekend, grossing a whopping $50.1 million and easily winning the week at the local box office.
The Martian's success in the world's second-largest movie market has been variously attributed to its China-friendly story elements, the popularity of high-concept sci-fi among Chinese filmgoers and a strong local marketing push, headlined by a Beijing press junket featuring Damon, Scott and other cast members — not to mention leading Chinese studio Bona Film Group's recent $235 million equity investment into 20th Century Fox's current slate of tentpoles, which includes The Martian (a local Chinese player in the mix never hurts when it comes to marketing latitude online and on the ground in China). The Martian has also benefited from effervescent buzz on China's top user-generated movie reviews sites, which would suggest a strong hold next weekend.
In second place, Taiwanese teen romance movie Our Times grossed less than half of what The Martian did, with $23.5 million for the week, according to data from Entgroup. The film's $40.88 million haul after 11 days still makes it the highest-grossing Taiwanese film of all time in mainland China. The movie was written and directed by Taiwanese TV producer turned first-time director Dorothy Chen.
Proving the Chinese audience's abiding love of the adrenaline-fueled car chase genre (Furious 7 remains the highest-grossing Hollywood film of all time there), Transporter Refueled jumped from fourth to third place for the week, adding $7.42 million for a solid $18.53 million cume after 10 days. Many had speculated that the absence of franchise star Jason Statham — a fan favorite in China — would hurt the latest installment. The film was brought into China as a flat-fee "buy out" title by Fundamental Films in Shanghai.
Hong Kong director Lo Chi-leung's noir period thriller The Vanished Murdered, starring Lau Ching-wan, opened to $6.32 million for fourth place in its debut weekend.
Falling to fifth, Spectre continued its precipitous slide, grossing just $6.06 million over the past week. After getting an unprecedented degree of live TV promotion thanks to a prominent spot during Alibaba's Singles Day Gala show, Daniel Craig's latest outing as 007 achieved a muscular $49 million opening weekend. But it has since decayed 75 percent and 81 percent over the past two weekends, owing largely to poor word of mouth on Chinese review sites. Spectre's China haul now sits at $84.38 million after 17 days.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2, currently leading the charts globally, has similarly underperformed in China, which should be cause for concern to studio execs stateside. Despite a coveted day-and-date China release with North America on a Friday (exceedingly rare), Mockingjay 2 garnered just $16 million in its opening weekend and fell 75 percent for a $5.61 million haul last week. After 10 days in Chinese cinemas, the Lionsgate franchise closer has grossed $21.8 million (globally, the film had grossed $440.7 million through Sunday). Like Spectre, Mockingjay 2 has been met with a withering reception on China's user-generated reviews sites (many Chinese reviewers have expressed a sense of fatigue with the drawn-out franchise).
Further down the charts, Korean-Chinese comedy-action co-production Bad Guys Always Die debuted in seventh with $4.88 million after three days; Chinese romantic drama Return of the Cuckoo fell to eighth place with $2.24 million, hitting a 10-day total of $6 million; local slapstick comedy A Fool pulled in another $770,000 for a 10-day cume of $2.87 million; and The Peanuts Movie held onto tenth place with $550,000 in ticket sales for a 24-day total of $5.76 million.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water and Point Break will be the final two Hollywood movies to get a release in China in 2015, opening Dec. 1 and Dec. 3, respectively.