On Screen China: Hollywood Sci-Fi, Russian Superheroes No Match For India’s ‘Dangal’

Facing a weak slate of new releases including Sony’s Life and Russia’s Guardians, Bollywood drama Dangal, already the highest-grossing Indian film ever in China, will continue its remarkable climb with a 2nd straight weekend victory to become the biggest non-Hollywood release of all-time.

Life (异星觉醒)

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

Sony’s Life, the sci-fi/horror film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds, will try to follow-up a modest box office victory from the studio’s previous sci-fi flick Passengers which grossed RMB 295 million ($42.7 million) in January.

But while Passengers was able to ride the star power of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, two well-established celebrities in the market, and a savvy marketing campaign, Gyllenhaal and Reynolds command no such influence in China.

Even Sony’s marketing effort for Life, consisting of only the standard movie posters, interviews, and trailers, and a horrible release date just one week before Pirates of the Caribbean 5 sweeps away the competition, seem to suggest the studio’s lack of confidence in its film.

Despite securing 20,000 more showtimes than Dangal on Friday, Life will find itself in second place this weekend with a debut in the range of $10 million, adding another black mark to the resume of the least successful Hollywood studio in China.

A Monster Calls (当怪物来敲门)

China Distribution – China Film Group Corporation (中国电影集团公司)
US Distribution – Summit Entertainment

Confirming its release date just two weeks ago, A Monster Calls enters Chinese theaters this weekend with almost no local press coverage and will struggle to make any sort of impact at the box office. Moreover, A Monster Call‘s darker themes — a young boy faced with his mother’s terminal cancer — will likely drive away its targeted family audience who typically go for lighter fare in China.

Wine War (抢红)

China Distribution – Media Asia Film Distribution (寰亚电影发行)

“Heavenly King” Leon Lai, best known for his singing and acting career, takes the directing reins for the first time in Wine War, an action film centered around the auction of a vintage bottle of French wine. Despite the addition of lead-actor Zhang Hanyu (Cell PhoneMr. Six), Wine War has failed to generate much buzz, and Lai’s recent track record with both critical and commercial flops — Night Peacock (RMB 33M), The Guest (RMB 4M), and The Secret (RMB 64M) — doesn’t exactly portend box office success.

Guardians (守护者:世纪战员)

China Distribution – S & C Pictures (世纪长龙影视有限公司)

A gun-toting bear and a woman who can turn into water (and apparently “make a good borscht”) finally crash Chinese theaters in Guardians, Russia’s very own answer to Marvel’s Avengers.

Guardians, however, won’t come close to putting up Marvel numbers this weekend. A high-quality rip has already made the rounds on Chinese internet portals, and viewers aren’t exactly enamored by the Russian superheroes on Douban where it sits at 4.1/10 or worse than 97% of all other action films rated on the site.

Russia’s current box office record holder in China is Stalingrad which grossed RMB 72 million ($11.5 million) back in 2013 and it won’t be relinquishing that title anytime soon. These shanzhai superheroes will struggle to hit $5 million total.