On Screen China: ‘Kong’ Will Be King

After Legendary Pictures’ The Great Wall failed to ignite the box office, the Wanda-owned production company returns to China with its only release of 2017, Kong: Skull Island, another monster movie seemingly tailor-made for Chinese audiences.

Kong: Skull Island (金刚:骷髅岛)

China Distribution – China Film Group Corporation (中国电影集团公司)
U.S. Distribution – Warner Bros. Pictures

Bankrolled by two powerful Chinese media companies in both Wanda — China’s largest exhibitor and owner of Legendary Pictures — and Tencent — purveyors of WeChat, the most popular messaging app in the world — Kong: Skull Island has been graced with the kind of preferential market treatment most revenue-sharing imports would kill for.

First, while Kong stomps into Chinese theaters two weekends after its global release date, the timing allows it to maintain a secure perch atop the country’s box office into the three-day Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival, a popular moviegoing holiday during the first week of April which is typically reserved for local-language fare.

In addition, Kong received a full day of previews on Tuesday- a  first for a revenue-sharing import– and played in 52 theaters nationwide, grossing RMB 793K ($115K) or a very impressive $2,200 per screen.

Solid word of mouth from the advanced screenings have already spread across WeChat feeds and Kong is set for a debut weekend approaching RMB 500 million (~$75 million). With the extra boost in ticket sales from Qingming, Kong: Skull Island could very well walk over xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (both currently ~$160 million) to become the highest-grossing Hollywood film of 2017 — at least until Furious 8 opens in mid-April.

The Summer is Gone (八月)

China Distribution – iQiyi Pictures (爱奇艺影业)

While perhaps fated to bank only “cannon-fodder” returns, The Summer is Gone represents a step up in terms of quality and prestige: the debut indie feature, another entry in the popular ’90s nostalgia genre,was produced by Tibetan-Chinese auteur Pema Tseden and funded by the streaming giant iQiyi.  In recent months, it has screened at the Tokyo and Rotterdam Film Festivals, and New York’s annual New Directors/New Films showcase; last November, it beat the odds to take the Best Picture prize, as well as other distinctions at the most recent Golden Horse Awards (the annual Oscar-equivalent for Chinese language cinema).  Regardless of its domestic theatrical run, we expect it to make further rounds in the U.S., Europe and the West, and barring some new film by Jia Zhangke dropping out of the blue, to be the pet Chinese title on the global arthouse circuit throughout the rest of this year.

 

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 Production Company Distribution Company
Top Funny Comedian

(欢乐)

Comedy The Comedians Pictures

(喀什喜剧者联盟影业)

Beijing Juhe Yinglian Media

(北京聚合影联文化)

The Call of Love

(唤爱)

Drama Hezishi Broadcasting

(菏泽市广播电视台)

Huaguang Shidai Entertainment

(华广时代文化)

A Story of Two Wanderers

(二宝江湖)

Comedy 泉州市高远文化传播 Beijing Yiguangxingjia Entertainment

(北京义广星嘉影视文化)