China Box Office: 'Now You See Me 2' Edges Out 'Independence Day' Sequel
Both of the sequels sport Chinese or Taiwanese castmembers in supporting roles, along with other references for Chinese moviegoers.
Jon M. Chu's Now You See Me 2 made magic at the Chinese box office over the weekend.
The Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment caper sequel opened to $43.3 million, nearly double its $23 million North American debut two weeks prior.
The performance marks Lionsgate's best opening ever in China and the third time this year that a Summit release has earned more in the Middle Kingdom than North America (Gods of Egypt took $35.6 million in China versus $31.2 million in North America, while Criminal brought in $15.8 million, compared with $14.7 million stateside).
The original Now You See Me was a surprise hit in China in 2013, grossing $23 million. The sequel features returning stars Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and Morgan Freeman, with Daniel Radcliffe appearing as the villain and Lizzy Caplan replacing Isla Fisher. Taiwanese mega-star Jay Chou also joins in a supporting role and the story takes place in the Chinese casino enclave of Macau.
Prior to the film's release, Ruffalo traveled to China with his family to make a series of promotional appearances alongside Chou. Ruffalo posted several photos from his Beijing tour on Facebook. The shots were soon shared widely on Chinese social media. In one fan favorite, the actor poses with two hulking Chinese security guards. In another, he flatters his hosts with a picture of an everyday scene abroad the Beijing subway, captioning it: "Not so different than NYC, except nicer, newer, cleaner and about 10% the price for a fare."
Just a step behind Now You See Me 2, fellow sequel Independence Day: Resurgence made a solid start in China with $37.3 million from Friday to Sunday. That's just a notch below the follow-up's disappointing $43.3 million stateside tally. It was Fox's fourth-largest China debut to date.
Although the original Independence Day (1996) never screened in China, effects-heavy disaster pictures have a strong precedent in the market — Resurgence director Roland Emmerich's apocalyptic 2012 was China's biggest film of 2009 and San Andreas earned $103 million last year.
While lacking Will Smith's star power, the sequel also has a couple of nuggets for mainland moviegoers. Chinese model-turned-actress Angelababy has a small part as Rain Lao, an earthling fighter pilot. And QQ, a popular instant messaging service produced by Chinese tech giant Tencent, also makes a cameo. Around 20 minutes into the movie, Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) makes a call to his girlfriend Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe) between Earth and a base on the moon. When the call is interrupted due to alien interference, the screen displays, "QQ is disconnected," followed by the system saying, "Thank you for using QQ." While the product placement probably flew past many U.S. moviegoers, Chinese fans were sure to catch it.
In the shadow of the Hollywood sequels, Hong Kong genre master Johnnie To's latest crime thriller, Three, opened — appropriately — in third place with $9.3 million. Set entirely inside a Hong Kong hospital and starring Vicki Zhao and Louis Koo, the film has earned warm reviews in both China and North America, where it was released Friday by Well Go USA in 18 theaters, producing $65,500 in returns.
Pixar's hit sequel Finding Dory got drubbed on Friday, bringing in just $760,000, according to preliminary data from Beijing-based Ent Group. But it bounced back slightly on Saturday and Sunday, earning $2.6 million and $2.7 million, respectively, for a fourth-place $6.1 million second weekend. The movie has earned $30 million after 10 days, and if momentum keeps up, Finding Dory could swim past Monsters University ($33.7 million) to become Pixar's all-time top-grossing title in China.
Falling to fifth in its third weekend, Duncan Jones' Chinese box-office phenomenon Warcraft added $3.71 million for a 19-day cumulative of $218.3 million. It looks like the Legendary Entertainment video game adaptation probably won't have quite enough gas left to catch Zootopia ($235.6 million), 2016's highest-grossing imported film.
In sixth place, X-Men: Apocalypse scored $1.9 million over the weekend, lifting its China cume to $118.7 million after 24 days. Further down the list, Alice Through the Looking Glass grabbed $30,000 for a $58.4 million 31-day haul, and The Angry Birds Movie squeaked out $10,000 for a $77.5 million cume after 38 days on Chinese screens.