China Box Office: ‘Doctor Strange’ Still Strong in Second Week

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Marvel turn walks all over Ang Lee’s post-war film Billy Lynn.


Doctor Strange (奇异博士) continued to cast a spell on Chinese moviegoers, winning the box office for a second straight weekend amid weak competition.

The latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which stars Chinese favorite Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, retained more than half of its opening weekend business, sliding just 48 percent for a Friday through Sunday total of RMB 154 million (US$22.5 million).

Doctor Strange has now earned RMB 569 million ($83.1 million) in 10 days of release. It currently sits as the seventh highest-grossing Marvel film for Disney and will most likely claw its way past Guardians of the Galaxy (RMB 595 million) and Ant-Man (RMB 672 million) to become the highest-grossing original IP film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Doctor Strange’s success in what’s been a tough market for Hollywood films of late can be attributed to Marvel’s powerful brand awareness as well as Cumberbatch’s popularity, an innovative story and jaw-dropping visuals.

Coming in well behind Doctor Strange, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (比利·林恩的中场战事) from director Ang Lee limped to a second-place finish, debuting with just RMB 80 million ($11.8 million), well under CFI’s initial predictions.

Billy Lynn had the highest percentage of showtimes on Friday owing to Ang Lee’s popularity in China, but demand dwindled throughout the weekend as general audiences and walk-by moviegoers shunned the film, unable to relate to its central character, an American soldier suffering from PTSD. Billy Lynn averaged just 13 moviegoers per screening, compared to Doctor Strange’s 29, the lowest average attendance of any film in the top five this weekend.

Film fans flooded special screenings of Billy Lynn in Shanghai and Beijing that were projected in Lee’s intended 120 fps/3D/4K resolution format, but the scarcity of such screenings barely put a dent in the film’s weekend box office total.

In addition to the inherent weakness of an American wartime story failing to attract Chinese moviegoers, Billy Lynn’s translated title may have misled consumers. Complaints from those in attendance targeted the film’s lack of war action as had been insinuated by the characters 战事 (pinyin – Zhànshì, def. fighting, war) used in Billy Lynn’s Chinese title.

Turning to next weekend’s outlook, it appears Doctor Strange’s dominant run at the top of the charts will be challenged by China’s most successful commercial film director Feng Xiaogang’s I Am Not Madame Bovary (我不是潘金莲), which opens on Friday, November 18. Lionsgate’s disaster film Deepwater Horizon also opens on Tuesday, November 15. Stay tuned to CFI for analysis and box office previews in Thursday’s On Screen China.