On Screen China: ‘Beauty’ Looks Like a Beast

Hollywood’s reign over the Chinese box office will enter its sixth straight weekend when Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast hits Chinese theaters Friday in a day-and-date global release.

Beauty and the Beast (美女与野兽)

China Distribution – China Film Group Corporation (中国电影集团公司)
US Distribution – Walt Disney Pictures

The official release announcement for Beauty and the Beast came way back on January 24, and the rare two-month interlude has given Disney ample time to unleash a local promotional blitz aimed at young Chinese unfamiliar with the original animation.

Hoping to win over female ticket-buyers, the studio wisely used the month spanning Valentine’s Day and White Day (March 14) as a focal point to spotlight the film’s romantic elements. Via an exclusive deal with Tencent Video, Disney posted a Chinese-language theme song featuring superstar actor, Jing Boran (Monster Hunt) and Taiwanese singer Hebe Tien waltzing to Alan Menken’s original anthem. It has racked up more than 11 million views in the three weeks since its release.

Disney also set up a massive outdoor exhibit in Beijing’s high-traffic Sanlitun Taikoo Li shopping mall, displaying props from the film and encouraging passing shoppers to post selfies to their WeChat accounts with Beauty and the Beast hashtags. A select few were also invited to the film’s Shanghai premiere on March 1.

Disney’s marketing efforts appear to have paid off.  Largely driven by young women, opening day pre-sales are outpacing last year’s The Jungle Book, and Beauty and The Beast is projected to earn between RMB 350 and 400 million ($50-60 million) its opening weekend..

At the same time, in coming weeks, weaker word-of-mouth and stronger competition than The Jungle Book faced— Kong: Skull Island will rule over theaters starting Friday, March 24 — will likely prevent Beauty and The Beast from reaching The Jungle Book’s RMB 1 billion finish.

 

Here at On Screen China, weekly box office analysis primarily concerns the weekend’s widest releases, films with the biggest breakout potential, and other newsworthy titles. But each weekend, smaller films, frequently referred to as “cannon fodder” (paohui or 炮灰) in the Chinese media, squeeze into theaters, rarely selling more than a few hundred thousand dollars’ worth of tickets before disappearing into obscurity. The following table details these lesser releases in order to provide a sense of the huge scope of the world’s second largest film industry.

Film Title Genre Main Performers Production Company Distribution Company
Nirvana
(走出尘埃)
Drama Feng Bo China Movie Channel
(电总频道节目制作中心)
Huihe Yinghua Pictures
(辉合映画影业)
Haunted Sisters
(通灵姐妹)
Horror Zhang Lanyi Shanxi Feiermu Media
(山西菲尔幕文化传媒)
Zhejiang Dongyang April Day
(浙江东阳四月天)
Pursuit
(追击)
Action Brendan Gleeson An Pointe Productions S&C Pictures
(世纪长龙影视)