China Box Office: 'Nutcracker' Opens to $12 Million During Another Downbeat Weekend

The Nutcracker and The Four Realms - Official Trailer 2-Screen shot-H 2018
Disney Movie Trailers/YouTube

The biggest Chinese release during the frame, Donnie Yen's 'Frozen Hero 2' flopped with $3.6 million, prompting an ugly war of words between the production company and actor on social media.

Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms topped China's box office over the weekend with a decidedly less-than-festive $10.9 million opening haul.

The downbeat performance from the pricey Disney holiday title wasn't nearly enough to pull the Chinese film market out of its ongoing fall-season funk. 

Total ticket sales for the frame were just $39.9 million (RMB 276.3 million), almost half of the $73.6 million the market generated during the same weekend last year, when Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok was filling Chinese cinema seats. Other data from leading Asian box-office tracker Artisan Gateway shows ticket sales in China down 33 percent in October compared with 2017.

Chinese critics have tended to share the same withering view of The Nutcracker as their U.S. counterparts: The film has a score of 6.1/10 on Chinese reviews aggregator Douban, and a 34 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Nutcracker's soft start represents a rare miss for Disney in China, which has a stellar recent release record in the country, as it does nearly everywhere. The film, directed by Lasse Hallstrom, cost a hefty $125 million to make, and opened to just $20 million in North America.

The Christmas-themed film is a live-action adaptation of the classic ballet and short story about a girl whose nutcracker doll comes to life. Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren star, while American Ballet Theater ballerina Misty Copeland makes her big-screen debut.

Last week's winner, 20th Century Fox's The Predator, slipped to fifth place with $3.3 million, a 81.2 percent slide. The film has earned approximately $27 million after two weekends.

U.S. indie genre vehicle The Hurricane Heist, directed by China regular Rob Cohen, opened in second place with $6.4 million. Starring Toby Kebbell and Maggie Grace, the film follows follows a band of thieves who attempt to use a Category 5 hurricane to cover their tracks during a bank robbery.

Cohen previously shot The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor in China in 2008, and is said to be returning to the country sometime soon to shoot a big-budget car chase co-production for Sid Ganis' Jiaflix Pictures and China's 1905 Pictures.

The 2017 British comedy drama A Street Cat Named Bob debuted in third place with $3.8 million. The feel-good film, adapted from the biographical book The World According to Bob by James Bowen, tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a former heroin addict and an alley cat. 

Frozen Hero 2, starring Donnie Yen (Rogue One, Ip Man), was the big local disappointment of the weekend. The movie opened to just $3.6 million and was savaged by critics, prompting the lead production company of the film, Shanxi Western Movie Channel, to lash out bizarrely at Yen on social media.

"Mr. Donnie Yen constantly interfered during production, claiming that he was the most experienced," said a statement posted to the film's official social media accounts (the post was later deleted). "He drastically reduced the parts of many other actors in order to highlight his main role, which caused the film to be only 87 minutes long and without a clear stories, so that it's unclear what the film is even talking about," the statement added, among a deluge of other criticisms.

Yen soon fired back from his own Weibo account, writing: "What a shameless group of people. I won't put up with this despicable behavior used as attention-getting and promotion — wait for the letter from my lawyer."