China Box Office: Smurfs Come Up Short, F8 Remains #1

Despite dropping nearly 75% from its opening weekend, The Fate of the Furious lapped a weak field to race closer to the record established by its predecessor for highest-grossing import of all-time.


The Fate of the Furious — renamed Fast and Furious 8 for the Chinese market — became just the fourth film ever in China to fly past the RMB 2 billion threshold this weekend with an RMB 374 million second lap ($54.4 million—or, minus online ticketing surcharges, RMB 353 million/$51.2 million, the actual revenue from which Universal will be reckoning its split).

The ten-day cume for the latest installment in the lucrative franchise is now RMB 2.197 billion/$319.1 million (RMB 2.074 billion /$301.3 million without online surcharges) putting Furious 8 in the passing lane ready to overtake Furious 7 as China’s highest-grossing import of all-time, at least in local currency. Beating Furious 7’s China total in USD — $391 million using the exchange rate for RMB 2.43 billion in April 2015 — will likely come down to a photo finish given that Chinese currency has weakened nearly ten percent against the dollar since that time.

Furious 8 seized two-thirds of this weekend’s moviegoing business, leaving little market space for other releases.

In second place, Sony Pictures’ Smurfs: The Lost Village debuted well under expectations, with just RMB 76.3 million/$11.1 million (RMB 72.3/$10.5 million adjusted). The three-day opening bested the RMB 62 million put up by The Smurfs 2, but given the market’s expansion since 2013 and awareness of the franchise in China, it can only be counted a disappointment. The inaugural film in the series, The Smurfs was the breakout hit of 2011, earning RMB 252 million as the second highest-grossing animation of the year behind Kung Fu Panda 2.

Looking at big picture implications, Smurfs’ performance shows that imported animations continue to struggle in 2017: Kubo and the Two Strings (RMB 44 million), Canada’s Snowtime (RMB 43 million), The Lego Batman Movie (RMB 42 million), and France’s Ballerina (RMB 40 million) have all failed to breakout with Chinese audiences, with only Illumination Entertainment’s Sing (RMB 216 million) finding a modicum of success.

Local language films fleshed out the rest of the top five: romantic comedy Mr. Pride vs. Miss Prejudice, produced by Alibaba Pictures and distributed by its Tao Piaopiao online ticketing division found RMB 67 million/$9.7 million (RMB 61 million/$8.9 million adjusted) in a four-day debut.

Further down, the re-released extended version of A Chinese Odyssey Part 2: Cinderella earned RMB 27 million/$4.0 million (RMB 25 million/$3.6 million adjusted) in its second frame. The 1995 comedy starring Stephen Chow has now grossed RMB 166 million/$24.1 million (RMB 152 million/$22.2 million adjusted) and is the highest-grossing re-release ever in the market.  Don’t be surprised if more follow Cinderella’s lead.

In fifth place, newcomer The Blood Hound, about a park ranger and his trusty companion in Northwestern China, sniffed out just RMB 12.5 million ($1.8 million) in its debut. Earlier this year, with some local marketing help from Alibaba, Amblin Partners’ A Dog’s Purpose exceeded all expectations, taking in RMB 608 million ($88.0 million), so be on the lookout for more canine-centered productions trying to replicate its box office success.

Next weekend, Hollywood sits on the bench as the three-day public Labour Day holiday is reserved for new domestic releases. The weekend will be fought at close quarters between Furious 8 and a quartet of middling local language films including the sci-fi thriller Battle of Memories, and Shock Wave, starring Andy Lau. Stay tuned for a full box office preview in Thursday’s On Screen China.