A crash-landing at the North American box office might have been unexpected for After Earth, but there always the hope that the film could change its luck overseas. Will Smith and son/co-star Jaden took off on a lengthy worldwide promotional tour for the film as Sony waited anxiously for the global numbers to come in. After Earth hit 5,218 screens in China six weeks after it opened in its first overseas market, South Korea. The sci-fi flick closed its run in South Korea with $3.4 million, well below the $10.1 million earned by Oblivion in the same territory. If the $197 million overseas cume from Tom Cruise sci-fi vehicle is used as a reference point, then After Earth would need a big push from its Chinese release to help mitigate the damage suffered at the North American box office.
A $13.89 million opening weekend was enough for After Earth to claim the top spot in China's weekly box office chart, according to figures from EntGroup. The film's total represents three days of release in the territory and accounts for 2,587,773 admissions. The China premiere allowed the film to break the $150 million overseas mark, giving it a $157.5 million overseas total and a $216.8 million global cume. If it can hold well in the coming weeks, After Earth might be able to reach a healthy $35 million total in the market.
Sci-fi has proved popular in China all summer. The market represents nearly a quarter of the $222.5 million overseas total from Star Trek Into Darkness ($57M) and became the only overseas territory where Oblivion broke the $20 million mark, bringing in $23.7 million of the Tom Cruise vehicle's $197 million overseas gross.
China also has the reputation of "saving" several recent Hollywood box office disasters. Rob Cain, an authority on the Chinese film industry, previewed the film's opening in the territory with a think-piece considering After Earth's box office potential in China. Cain points out China's role in helping recent North American fiascos like John Carter and Battleship cross the $200 and $300 million global marks, respectively. John Carter grossed $73.1 million in North America and was rescued by a $42.1 million China run that took its global total to $201 million. Battleship fared better overseas, posting a mere $65.4 million in North America and a $50.1 million total from China that raised its global tally to $303 million.
Johnnie To's Blind Detective finished its first full week of release in second place with a $12.62 million total to bring its Chinese cume up to $26.55 million. Already a smash hit, Tiny Times recently announced an August 9 release for a sequel. That's less than two months after the premiere of the current box office hit, which has grossed $75.73 million in 18 days. Man of Steel is closing out its run in China, ending the week with a $4.17 million take. The Superman reboot has grossed a total of $62.51 million in China. Man of Tai Chi, the Chinese co-produced directorial debut of Keanu Reeves, fell flat in its premiere last weekend. This week's numbers were equally as poor; Man of Tai Chi earned $1.18 million in its first full week in theaters to take its Chinese total to $4.28 million.
Weekly Box Office Results for China.
Data Courtesy of EntGroup.
A sequel to a controversial film will hit Chinese theaters on August 9. The sequel to Tiny Times will hit theaters less than two months after the original's release. [China Daily]
CGV orders second biggest IMAX screen deal in history, accelerates IMAX growth in China. [Variety]
Five Greater China actors have been cast in Hollywood blockbuster productions. Included is Han Geng, who joined the cast of upcoming Transformers 4. [Film Business Asia]
After Earth was going to need a big push overseas if it wanted to mitigate the damage it suffered at the North American box office. It has been a good summer for sci-fi abroad, with Oblivion posting a $197 million overseas cume and Star Trek Into Darkness earning $222.5 million outside of North America. After Earth hasn't reached those heights yet, but a $13.8 million opening in China after being released on July 11 will be enough to push the film past the $150 million overseas mark.
The $13.8 million debut isn't necessarily a blockbuster opening for After Earth and is unlikely to carry the film to the heights of recent blockbusters like Tiny Times ($77.4M) and Man of Steel ($65M). The gross is similar to last week's Blind Detective premiere, which grossed $13.9 million from a Thursday opening. Blind Detective held well in its second week of release, grossing an additional $12.6 million to reach a $26.9 million cume, according to a story from The Hollywood Reporter.
Man of Tai Chi tumbled further down the chart this week. The directorial debut of Keanu Reeves flopped in its opening frame last week and posted an underwhelming $1.8 million this week to bring its cume to $4.42 million.
Check back with us later this week for a full report on the Chinese box office.
By Phil Contrino
It's hard to watch Pacific Rim without thinking that it was built to play well in China.
Pacific Rim prominently features Chinese characters who pilot Crimson Typhoon (pictured above), one of the strongest robots featured in the film. The appeal doesn't stop there. It's no coincidence that while taking time off from fighting invading aliens the pilots are seen playing basketball, a wildly popular sport in China. "China is our number one market outside of the United States," Heidi Ueberroth, president of NBA International, told Reuters earlier this year. "The growth has been very significant and very much on track, and we are very much still just scratching the surface."
In addition to featuring Chinese characters in key roles, director Guillermo del Toro brings Pacific Rim to an action-packed conclusion in Hong Kong. The use of that setting may help the film gain more traction with Asian moviegoers.
Pacific Rim is already off to a great start in key Asian territories. Warner Bros. reports that the sci-fi flick took in a healthy $9.6 million in Korea over the weekend, which puts it 146% ahead of Rise of Planet of the Apes after its opening weekend.
The $38.3 million debut Pacific Rim managed in North America is largely viewed as a disappointment--the film is being criticized for not even topping the critically-lambasted Grown Ups 2. Yet Pacific Rim will have the last laugh once global receipts are counted if the $53 million overseas debut from only 50 percent of markets is any indication. Pacific Rim's performance in China will be particularly crucial when it comes to making up for a lackluster performance at home.
China-based sources tell BoxOffice that Pacific Rim could earn as much as $60 million in China when it opens on July 31. That would be an impressive showing considering that 2013 hasn't been a huge year for Hollywood in the Middle Kingdom. Star Trek Into Darkness earned just over $57 million, and Man of Steel is sitting at $62.9 million after this past weekend. It bodes well that Chinese moviegoers turned Transformers: Dark of the Moon--an effort that is often mentioned in the same breath as Pacific Rim--into a strong $172.3 million hit in their country. (The first Transformers film made $37.3 million in China when it debuted in 2007.) If Pacific Rim can tap into the same crowds that lined up for Michael Bay's action extravaganza, then it will it be in very good shape.
It's important to keep in mind that Pacific Rim will face tough competition from other Hollywood efforts. According to EntGroup, White House Down is slated to open on July 22 with Fast & Furious 6 following on July 26. Couple that with a surge in attendance for homegrown products--Chinese films boast a market share over 60 percent in 2013--and it's not hard to imagine Pacific Rim failing to make a big impact.
BoxOffice recently caught up with Max Peskin, Global Communications manager for Beijing-based Vasoon Animation Co.
Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, Peskin moved to Beijing eight months ago in order to work within China's booming animation industry. Peskin opens up to BoxOffice about the animation market in China, what Chinese families are looking for when they go to the movies, and why Hollywood's animated films still do so well in China.
BoxOffice: Tell us a little bit about Vasoon Animation Co. and your role there.
Peskin: Founded in 1992, Vasoon Animation is China's leading and oldest private animation studio. With over 180 animation professionals, Vasoon internationally produces a complete range of entertainment products, including animated feature films, animated TV series, artistic animated shorts and novels. Vasoon Animation has released features such as Kuiba, Kuiba 2, Spring Mood and Bird. The most recent feature Vasoon has released is Kuiba 2, which debuted on May 31st, 2012. Not only was it China's first animated film featured with 3D, but also was China's first feature with Dolby Atmos.
As the Global Communications Manager, it is my obligation to give the organization an international facelift and push Vasoon into the international spotlight. I submit Vasoon features to film festivals, prepare/submit press kits, manage Vasoon's online presence, reach out to distributors, production studios and other media outlet.
How long have you been living in China? Did it take you a while to adapt to life there and what were the toughest obstacles you had to face?
I have been living in Beijing for roughly eight months. In 2010 I studied at Fudan University for six months, so I already had a general understanding of what to expect while living in China. Regardless, the language proves to be the toughest obstacle when living in Beijing. Despite the language barrier, Vasoon has given plenty of support to make my transition easier.
If you had to sum up the state of Chinese animated films right now, how would you do it?
Chinese animation is rapidly improving the visual experience for their audience, however it still lacks the necessary creativity to break into international box offices. Local studios still struggle to develop an original animation style and a captivating story in order to capture a global audience. However, as local studios compete against each other and receive support from the government, there is a high likelihood of a studio producing an international blockbuster. Although the animation industry has difficulties with movie promotions and film distribution, a powerhouse studio would likely aid the local studios' efforts if the film has strong potential.
Why do you think that China's moviegoers respond so positively to animated films from Hollywood?
Hollywood animated features not only have beautiful animation and family-friendly stories, but also have their content catered for a global audience. In the current film market, it is vital for large studios to capitalize on the international box office revenue, so studios began to adjust their stories to appeal to an international crowd. Pixar is the perfect example of studios catering to a worldwide community, as the majority of their films focusing on the fantasy lives of objects or animals. This content catering tactic discards any racial issues from the movie while still captivating a global audience.
Animation relies heavily on the purchasing power of families. What do you think Chinese families are looking for when they seek out animated films to see in theaters?
Chinese families have similar requirements to western families when it comes to animated movies. They look for a family friendly animated feature that promotes morals and values which would inspire their children. It is also important for these features to not only entertain the children, but also the parents. If parents can also enjoy the feature with their children, it is a win-win for all parties involved.
How long do you think it will take for China to produce animated films that can not only perform well at home but also in other countries?
Government aid and local competition will make this day come sooner than later, 2020 Ernst in Young predicts China B.O dominance, which will increase the ante of the local studios. My guess, the first locally produced animated feature film will come out sometime within the next 5-10 years.
How big of a role does merchandising play in the Chinese animation market. For instance, we all know that Cars 2 was made largely because the property sells billions of dollars in merchandise. Is there anything like that happening in China?
Animated features can generate a strong revenue stream off of derivatives products, so merchandising plays a big role in China. Chinese animation studios that produce original IP eagerly look for merchandising opportunities if their feature has a strong enough following. Arguably the most popular animated television series, Creative Power Entertaining Co.'s Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, has actively worked with Walt Disney to aid their development of derivative products. Even Vasoon manages to do a wide range of merchandising, such as novels, toys, playing cards and clothing. There are several local animation studios which have combined animation production and product manufacturing. One example of a studio that incorporates this horizontal integration is Guangdong Alpha Animation, as the organization has both animation production and producer manufacturing.