On Screen China: ‘Guardians Vol. 2’ Primed to Kick Off Another Month of Hollywood Dominance

Following two months of box office dominance in which imported films captured 82 percent of all ticket sales, the good times will continue to roll for Hollywood in May starting with this weekend’s day-and-date release of Disney/Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (银河护卫队2)

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

Box office expectations in China for 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy were somewhat muted when the unknown team of superhero misfits graced Chinese screens in a typically slow post-National Day slot three months after their North American premiere. However, the freewheeling “galaxy protection squad” as they’re known in Mandarin, quickly charmed Chinese moviegoers with its offbeat humor and grossed an impressive RMB 596 million (US$96.5 million). The film also catapulted leading man Chris Pratt — now widely known simply as 星爵 (Star-Lord), his character’s namesake in the film — into the ranks of China’s most-recognizable Hollywood stars.

The sequel is set to piggy-back off its predecessor’s runaway success, and thanks to the addition of Baby Groot this time, will likely attract a younger female demographic separate from the usual Marvel fanboys.

As should be expected, presales have been somewhat lackluster compared to other heavyweight Marvel titles like Captain America and Avengers, but we anticipate word of mouth to catch fire early in the weekend, pushing Volume 2’s three-day opening to RMB 400 – 450 million ($60 – $65 million).

By the end of its Chinese run, this latest mixtape in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will easily outplay Volume 1, falling just shy of RMB 1 billion ($145 million).

Dangal (摔跤吧!爸爸)

China Distribution – Huaxia Film Distribution (华夏电影发行有限责任公司)
US Distribution – UTV Motion Pictures

Ask any Chinese moviegoer to name a single Bollywood star and you’d probably get a blank stare back. But for those in the know, Aamir Khan would likely be the standout.

Khan’s Three Idiots screened all the way back in 2011, and while it grossed just RMB 14 million ($2.2 million), the film’s portrayal of India’s high-pressure education system struck a chord with Chinese filmgoers across the country leading to a #12 ranking on Douban’s Top 250 list where it sits amongst such Chinese favorites as Wall-E, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale and Inception.

Khan’s religious satire PK similarly played to Chinese sensibilities to become the highest-grossing Indian film of all-time in the territory with RMB 119 million ($19.4 million) back in 2015.

This time around, Khan made a well-publicized appearance (at least in the Indian press, where every Bollywood foray into China is trumpeted with exaggerated fanfare) to promote Dangal as part of last month’s Beijing International Film Festival. As a result, Chinese exhibitors appear to have confidence in the wrestling drama’s box office potential, and Dangal will open on Friday with 13% of the day’s total showtimes, the widest release ever for an Indian production in the territory.

We believe Dangal will continue Aamir Khan’s hot streak in China. Look for an RMB 70 million ($10 million) debut this weekend and a final haul of RMB 200 million (~$30 million).

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” in the Chinese media (paohui or 炮灰), 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
Myth Kill Joke (Chinese Trailer)

咸鱼传奇

Time Travel/Comedy Beijing Haiyuan Film

北京海元影业文化传媒

China Film Group

中国电影集团公司

Combat Corruption & Build A Clean Government

凤凰街风雨

Propaganda Shanxi Zuojia Entertainment

山西作家影视

Shanxi Zuojia Entertainment

山西作家影视