China Box Office: Hong Kong's 'P Storm' Prevents 'Shazam!' From Taking Flight

Shazam!-Publicity Still 8-H 2019
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The New Line and DC superhero pic opened to a healthy $30.9 million, but shaky word-of-mouth suggests the film may lose momentum.

New Line and DC's kid-friendly superhero movie Shazam! got off to a respectable start in China over the weekend, opening to $30.9 million.

The debut was just a notch below Wonder Woman's $38 million opening in 2017 and also within the range of several of Marvel's character-introducing superhero titles in China, such as Guardians of the Galaxy ($30 million) and Ant-Man ($42 million). But it wasn't enough to beat the local competition.

Hong Kong crime thriller P Storm — its spectacularly unfortunate title notwithstanding — decisively won the frame with $39.8 million from Friday to Sunday, according to data from Artisan Gateway.

Hit with shaky word-of-mouth, Shazam! also appeared to lose momentum as the weekend progressed. Over half of its opening-weekend haul in China — $15.3 million — came from Friday alone, with the film slipping instead of building Saturday and Sunday. A viewer rating of just 7.9/10 on leading ticketing service Maoyan — compared with scores of over 9 for the other market-topping titles — should also be a somewhat worrying indicator for Warner Bros about the film's local legs. 

Friday was China's annual Tomb-Sweeping Day, also known as Qingming Festival, a national holiday devoted to paying homage at the graves of family ancestors. P Storm opened Thursday to capitalize on most Chinese nationals having Friday off work. Including Thursday grosses, the film has earned $52.5 million to date.

The fourth film in Hong Kong director David Lam's Storm franchise, P Storm built slightly on the earnings of its most recent predecessor, L Storm, which opened with $30 million and finished at $64 million in 2018.

The franchise stars Hong Kong leading man Louis Koo as an anti-corruption investigator fighting white-collar crime across Greater China. P Storm finds the hero forced to go undercover as a prison inmate ("P" as in "prison," hopefully?).

With each Storm project growing bigger at the box office, the forecast was clearly calling for more. Hong Kong production company Pegasus Motion Pictures delivered on schedule last week, announcing that, G Storm, film number five, will be going into production in August.

Indian black comedy Andhadhun, meanwhile, opened in third with $10.7 million, further demonstrating that the emergent market viability of Bollywood filmmaking in China is more than just a fad. Directed by Sriram Raghavan and produced by Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Andhahun is a quirky thriller about a blind piano player who unwittingly gets entangled in a murder. Riding rave word-of-mouth, the project appeared to be gaining momentum by Sunday. 

"The Chinese audiences have shown immense love and appreciation for the film and it continues to grow leaps and bounds," said Ajit Andhare, COO of Viacom18 Studios, in a statement Monday.