China Box Office: 'Rogue One' Opens to $31M, Far Far Away From 'Force Awakens'

Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm
'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story'

The stand-alone 'Star Wars' film could be in trouble in the Middle Kingdom, given that Sony's sci-fi pic 'Passengers' opens there next weekend with backing from Beijing powerhouse Dalian Wanda Group.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story finally cruised into China over the weekend, completing its sweep of box offices around the world. But the Disney and Lucasfilm juggernaut closed out this final leg with something of a sputter.

The film earned $31 million from Friday to Sunday, according to studio figures, down 39 percent from The Force Awakens' $53.2 million haul during roughly the same weekend last year.

Although Rogue One's performance was nearly triple China's second-place finisher — romantic-comedy holdover Some Like It Hot at $11.7 million — the decline from Force Awakens was particularly striking given that the spinoff features two of China's biggest stars, Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen. Fans and critics around the world have praised the chemistry between the Chinese actors, so it comes as some surprise that the duo couldn't help the film more on their home turf.

Terrible air pollution levels in Northern China on Friday and Saturday are believed to have kept some moviegoers home. And China's box-office revenue has been flat or declining since the second quarter of last year, when a sudden correction hit the market following years of huge growth. The fabled Star Wars franchise also faces unique cultural challenges in China. 

Rogue One opened on 381 of China's Imax screens, earning just over $4 million on the giant format. That's about half of Force Awakens' $8.1 million Imax opening.

Force Awakens earned $124.2 million, or 6 percent, of its $2.07 billion global total in China (the film was the 13th biggest title in the country last year). With $914.4 million worldwide as of Sunday, Rogue One can be expected to finish past $1 billion, meaning it will need to earn at least $60 million in China for the country to make up an equivalent share of the total pie.

Whether Rogue One hits $60 million in the Middle Kingdom is questionable, given Sony's sci-fi pic Passengers opens there on Friday. Although Passengers has been something of a box-office disappointment in North America, both Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are popular stars in China, thanks to their respective hits (Pratt's Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World and Lawrence's Hunger Games and X-Men franchises). Passengers also will have a powerful local backer in Chinese entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, which signed a strategic marketing agreement with Sony in September.

Coming in third for the weekend behind Some Like It Hot, Jackie Chan's action-comedy Railroad Tigers earned $5.58 million in its third frame for a 17-day total of $87.2 million.

Legendary Entertainment's The Great Wall came in fourth with $3.13 million, bringing its 24-day cumulative to $160 million, which is about what the Matt Damon-starring film cost to make.

Further down the charts, Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge continued to put up numbers after 31 days in China, adding $1.41 million for a $57.6 million cume. After winning word-of-mouth raves in China, the movie was granted a rare extension to its one-month screening license by China's regulators. The bloody war movie's China haul probably won't match the $65 million it earned in North America, but it has come surprisingly close.