China Box Office: ‘Kong’-dom Come

Buoyed by local heavyweights Wanda and Tencent. The Warner Bros./Legendary Entertainment monster movie rumbled to Hollywood’s second biggest opening of 2017

Kong: Skull Island threw down a massive three-day opening in China this past weekend, grossing RMB 470 million ($68.3 million) when adjusted for online ticketing fees (the studio reported an unadjusted RMB 496 million, or $72.1 million gross—see here for further explanation, but most importantly, Warner and its partners only stand to collect 25% of the unadjusted number).

It was the second biggest Hollywood opening this year, behind only Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (RMB 636 million; $92.7 million), and 18% higher than its strong $61 million North American opening weekend—numbers that allow the film’s Chinese funders, Wanda (who own Legendary Pictures) and Tencent to pound their chests. While Kong may appear outwardly to extend Hollywood’s dominance over the Chinese box office, the participation of Wanda and Tencent really make it a victory for the home team as well.

Kong’s boffo sales comprised more than 70% of the weekend’s moviegoing business, largely casting aside any Hollywood holdovers.

Last weekend’s champ, Beauty and the Beast tumbled 72% to earn RMB 86 million ($12.5 million). Disney’s live-action remake has now grossed RMB 505 million ($73.5 million) in ten days of release, a new box office record for a musical in China, but it will still fall significantly short of The Jungle Book’s RMB 1 billion from last year.

Next weekend sees the three-day Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival.  The local crime thriller, The Devotion of Suspect X, adapted from a popular Japanese novel, will receive preferential treatment—it is likely to mow down Kong on its opening day, but Chinese audiences will continue to flock to the blockbuster on the holiday’s remaining days. If so, it might look like a rare Qingming victory for Hollywood, but its Chinese producers will also share the glory.