- Imported films from four different countries took the top seven spots at China’s box office this weekend.
- Total ticket sales, from Friday to Sunday hit just RMB 246 million (US$34.8 million), the lowest weekend total in 2016.
- College-aged students recently returned to school, contributing to the significant lull in cinema business this weekend.
Imported films from four different countries took the top seven spots at China’s box office this weekend with Paramount Pictures’ Star Trek Beyond defending its crown for a second straight weekend.
Total ticket sales, however, from Friday to Sunday hit just RMB 246 million (US$34.8 million), the lowest weekend total in 2016, second only to the run-up to February’s Lunar New Year, when most Chinese families were busy traveling or preparing for the holiday, and many cinemas shuttered to patrons.
College-aged students — a main driving force behind China’s box office boom — recently returned to school, which certainly would have contributed to the significant lull in cinema business this weekend, but a lack of eye-catching titles also played a role. September is shaping up to be yet another lackluster month in what’s been an underwhelming year at the Chinese box office.
Star Trek Beyond (星际迷航3：超越星辰), the third installment in Paramount’s rebooted sci-fi franchise, dropped a steep 63 percent this weekend to corral RMB 76 million ($11.3 million) and push its 10-day total to RMB 358 million ($53.3 million). Given the local marketing blitz by investors Alibaba and Huahua Media, Star Trek Beyond’s performance in China is another letdown for Paramount following Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle 2’s disappointing run in July.
Opening in second place, Sony’s latest revenue-sharing import The Shallows (鲨滩) chomped up RMB 56.2 million ($8.4 million) in ticket sales this weekend. The debut was exactly half of The Shallows’ North American bow where the shark thriller starring Blake Lively has grossed $55 million. The Shallows will struggle to gross much more in China given a slew of local titles opening this weekend for China’s Mid-Autumn Festival.
French distributor EuropaCorp’s talking cat film Nine Lives (九条命), which bombed commercially and critically Stateside, inexplicably found an accepting audience in China, where it debuted with RMB 54.9 million ($8.2 million), $2 million more than its opening weekend in North America. Nine Lives was imported on a flat-fee basis (as opposed to revenue-sharing where Hollywood studios receive 25% of the Chinese box office revenue) and distributed by Shanghai-based Fundamental Films. EuropaCorp’s ongoing distribution partnership with Fundamental, first agreed upon in 2012 and now extended through 2020, has been a boon to its catalog with titles such as The Transporter Refueled and Brick Mansions grossing more in China than in North America.
Rounding out the top five were Hollywood revenue-sharing holdovers Ice Age: Collision Course adding $2.6 million for a 20-day total of $63.8 million, and Jason Bourne with $1.1 million to give the Universal thriller $66.3 million overall.
Further down the list, Absolutely Anything, a British fantasy comedy from 2014 starring Kate Beckinsale and Simon Pegg, flopped hard with just $0.98 million in its debut. Absolutely Anything was imported by Huahua Media and Yuehua Entertainment on a flat-fee basis.