China Box Office: Why China Dug ‘The Mummy’

The Tom Cruise-starrer debuted six feet under in North America, but a robust opening weekend performance at the overseas box office — led by China with $50 million — gives hope to Universal’s planned “Dark Universe” on the international stage.

If somehow you’d forgotten about the runaway Chinese box office successes of North American duds xXx: The Return of Xander Cage and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, let the last two weeks at the box offices in the world’s top two film markets be a fresh reminder of how starkly different their moviegoing tastes can be.

Last weekend, Wonder Woman debuted to RMB 246 million* ($36.2 million) in China. The opening was undoubtedly a success given the unfamiliarity of the source material and DC’s second-fiddle status to Marvel in the territory, but it was still a far cry from the $100+ million opening director Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine earned at home.

Meanwhile this weekend, The Mummy, starring Chinese favorite Tom Cruise, unearthed much more loot in China (RMB 335 million/$49.3 million*) than it did in North America ($32.2 million). What looked to be an early death knell for Universal’s planned “Dark Universe” was given second life not only by China’s boffo opening weekend performance, but strong plays elsewhere overseas including South Korea ($17.8 million) and Russia ($7.6 million) and Taiwan ($4.9 million). International markets accounted for 81% of The Mummy’s $174 million debut.

The commercial success of The Mummy in China can be attributed to several different factors. Though Tom Cruise alone doesn’t portend box office success — see last year’s Jack Reacher: Never Go Back — the action star is well-known among Chinese moviegoers. More importantly, however, The Mummy is a well-established franchise: The Mummy Returns was the 4th-highest grossing film in China all the way back in 2001. In addition, China has an insatiable appetite for anything related to tomb-raidingKung Fu YogaMojin: The Lost Legend, and Time Raiders are all among the top 20 highest-grossing domestic releases of all-time.

Despite The Mummy‘s box office coup, moviegoers were less than enthralled with the film itself. Douban users rated the film just 4.8/10 or worst than 94% of all movies listed on the influential site, and Maoyan users — a wider cross-section of general Chinese audiences than Douban — gave The Mummy 7.0/10, the worst rating of any Hollywood wide-release in 2017.

Those paltry numbers spell disaster for The Mummy which will likely drop an epic 80 to 90 percent in second weekend ticket sales and fail to hit the standard 2x opening weekend multiplier that has become the norm for Hollywood blockbusters in the territory.

In second place, behind much stronger word of mouth, Wonder Woman fell just 65% off its opening weekend to gross RMB 85.2 million* ($12.5 million). China’s 10-day total is now RMB 448 million* ($65.9 million).

Spots three and four on the weekend charts went to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales which scavenged RMB 47.6 million* ($7.0 million) for a 17-day total of RMB 1.033 billion ($152.0 million), and India’s Dangal, still able to pin down RMB 32 million* ($4.7 million) on its 6th weekend of release. The highest-grossing non-Hollywood import continues its phenomenal Middle Kingdom run, now with RMB 1.126 billion ($165.6 million) and gas still left in the tank.

Up next Friday for Hollywood, Alien: Covenant looks bound to disappoint audiences. All eyes instead are on Transformers: The Last Knight, opening Friday June 23, as it challenges Furious 8 for the title of highest-grossing imported film of all-time.

*All listed grosses are adjusted to remove online ticketing fees. For a primer on why CFI reports this way, see here