Character recognition, Marvel brand awareness, and targeted local marketing pushed Sony’s Spider-Man: Homecoming to a franchise- and studio-best $66 million debut in China this weekend.After a sluggish start for imported films following China’s summer blackout period, Spider-Man: Homecoming delivered Hollywood’s first bonafide box office success in nearly three months, opening with RMB 431 million* ($66 million) and giving Sony its best debut ever in the territory.
Among Hollywood studios in China, Sony has been a perennial loser on the yearly box office charts; its only bright spots over the past five years have been the Spider-Man and 007 franchises. Case in point, Homecoming earned more in its three-day opening than Sony’s entire slate did last year in the Middle Kingdom.
Spider-Man‘s success in the territory comes mainly from its IP recognition: Peter Parker was the first Hollywood superhero to grace Chinese screens when Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man opened in 2002. The character has earned a special place in audiences’ hearts over the subsequent decade-and-a-half as all six films featuring the web-slinger have performed well at the box office.
Sony also wisely chose to team up with Marvel Studios on Homecoming. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, now sixteen films deep, is perhaps the most recognizable Hollywood brand in China and the most profitable franchise ever to hit the country’s cineplexes.
But even with its IP recognition, brand awareness, and a targeted local marketing push featuring rapper PG One, winner of this summer’s popular Rap of China talent competition, Homecoming will struggle to finish its Chinese run with even double its opening weekend haul. The sub-2X multiplier is a plight that’s befallen many Hollywood blockbusters of late — especially superhero films — and a trend that should now be considered normal in this “one-and-done” market.
Dunkirk, last weekend’s box office champ, is another victim of China’s extreme frontloading. The WWII film was unable to sustain demand after a strong opening weekend fueled by rabid Christopher Nolan fans and plummeted 80% to earn just RMB 37 million* ($5.6 million) Dunkirk‘s 10-day total is now RMB 287 million* ($44.0 million).
Up next Friday for Hollywood is 20th Century Fox’s War for the Planet of the Apes, another franchise film with a strong pedigree in the Chinese market. Initial forecasts predict an opening weekend around $50 million. Stay tuned to Thursday’s On Screen China for a full box office preview.
*All listed grosses in this article are adjusted to remove online ticketing fees. For a primer on why CFI reports this way, see here.