China Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Rides Rave Word-of-Mouth to $98M Opening

The Sony superhero pic is on pace to reach $200 million in China, while Japanese anime film 'Spirited Away' continues to trounce Disney's 'Toy Story 4.'

Spider-Man: Far From Home swung into China over the weekend — one weekend ahead of North America — and clocked the second-biggest Hollywood debut of the year in the country.

The Sony Pictures film earned an enormous $98 million, which is the seventh best start ever for a Hollywood studio film. It was also the fourth best for a superhero pic, behind only Avengers: Endgame (2019), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Sony's own Venom (2018). 

The opening was 46 percent ahead of Spider-Man: Homecoming's $70.8 million start in September 2017. Far From Home had the advantage of unfurling in China before North America, however, whereas Homecoming didn't release in the Middle Kingdom until two months after its stateside start.

Homecoming ultimately earned $116 million of its $880 million worldwide total in China. Far From Home should have a solid shot at crossing the $200 million mark, given its current pace and the dearth of heavyweight competition it will face in its second weekend. That would make it the second biggest U.S. studio release in China this year, topping Bumblebee's $170 million total, but making no challenge to Avengers: Endgame's historic $614 million haul.

Far From Home has plenty of room to build on its big start, thanks to the surprise cancellation of Chinese tentpole The Eight Hundred. The high-profile Chinese war film, directed by Guan Hu, was scheduled to open July 5; but it became a target of Beijing's censors during the Shanghai International Film Festival for complicated political reasons, and it has since been pulled from release.

The Eight Hundred was hotly anticipated among Chinese filmgoers and likely would have steamrolled Spider-Man in its second frame. Instead, Far From Home will only have to contend with Universal's The Secret Life of Pets 2, which opens Friday. The first Pets film opened to just $15.7 million in China in 2016.

After a rave start on Friday, local word-of-mouth for Tom Holland's second turn as Spider-Man has held up strongly. As of Monday in Beijing, the film had a score of 9.2/10 on ticketing platform Maoyan and 8.1/10 from Douban, China's more connoisseur-skewing reviews site. Those are among the very best scores for a superhero title (again, only Avengers: Endgame has done better).

Studio Ghibli's re-release of Hayao Miyazaki's classic anime title Spirited Away continued to do robust business in its second weekend in China, nearly 20 years after its original international rollout. The film added $11.7 million, taking its total to $54.5 million, according to data from leading regional box office tracker Artisan Gateway. The pic is enjoying unique positioning as a nostalgic classic that filmgoers can see on a whim with complete confidence of enjoyment (the movie's online scores are a chart-topping 9.3/10 on Douban and 9.3/10 on Maoyan). Spirited Away will continue to make modest but steady earnings over the coming weeks.

Disney's Toy Story 4, meanwhile, appears to be tapering off. The franchise juggernaut added just $5.2 million in its second outing, lifting its China total to $24.2 million, compared to $236.9 million in North America.

Still, Hollywood is enjoying a banner year in the Middle Kingdom. U.S. studio earnings were up 14.5 percent in the first half of 2019, totaling 12.6 billion yuan ($1.83 billion) as of June 30. The China market overall has slumped, however, with total box office falling 2.6 percent, as a downbeat release cycle for local films has seen Chinese studios' box office plummet 16.8 percent.

Following The Secret Life of Pets 2 on Friday, Disney's live-action Lion King will be the next imported title to roar into the China market when it opens July 12. Lion King also enjoys the benefit of bowing in China one week prior to North America.