‘Looking Glass’ Opening Puts a Crack in Disney China Box Office Streak

  • Looking Glass 3-day total of $27M nearly matched Wonderland’s entire China run 6 years ago but…
  • Given China box office has more than quadrupled since, Looking Glass can be called a flop
  • Civil War nears end of China run short of $200M, prompting some to call ‘Superhero Fatigue’
Poster for Alice Through the Looking Glass (Disney via Mtime)

Poster for Alice Through the Looking Glass (Disney via Mtime)

Walt Disney Studios’ incredible showing this year at the Chinese box office finally hit a snag this weekend with an underwhelming performance by Alice Through The Looking Glass. The sequel to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland — which grossed $1 billion worldwide in 2010 when the latest 3D technology was still a novelty for moviegoers — came in below expectations with a three-day total of RMB 175.7 million ($27.0 million).

The weekend debut nearly matched Wonderland’s entire Chinese run of $34.9 million six years ago but, given that the annual box office has more than quadrupled since, Alice Through The Looking Glass can be considered Disney’s first outright flop of 2016.

The ill-conceived sequel also had a disappointing Memorial Day Holiday in North America ($34.2 million in four days) and will struggle to make even half of its predecessor’s worldwide gross on a similar budget.

Alice was also unable to reignite a film market that will now see its second straight month when the box office has fallen from the same period a year ago. Chinese moviegoers just don’t seem to be interested in the current crop of releases.

Angry Birds grossed RMB 91.5 million ($13.9 million) in its second weekend of release, a respectable 54% drop from its debut, but still below average for an animated release. Sony Pictures and Rovio Entertainment’s adaptation of the once-popular mobile phone game has now grossed RMB 341.2 million ($52.5 million) in 10 days in China, compared to the $65.3 million in the same period in North America.

In third and fourth place in the weekend box office were Hollywood holdovers Captain America: Civil War and The Divergent Series: Allegiant. Both fell on hard times.  Allegiant ticket sales plummeted 73% in the film’s second weekend, grossing RMB 17.8 million ($2.7 million) for a 10-day total of RMB 107.5 million ($16.5 million). That said, the third installment in the film series adapted from the popular Divergent novels has now outgrossed both of its predecessors.

Civil War is nearing the end of its China run and grossed just $4.5 million in its fourth weekend of release. The Disney/Marvel superhero film will end its run under $200 million, well behind last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Some local industry analysts have speculated that Disney alienated general audiences unfamiliar with the franchise by pushing its ‘Team Cap vs Team Iron Man’ marketing campaign, and that Chinese moviegoers in general are beginning to suffer from superhero fatigue. It’s too early to tell if the Marvel brand may finally be running out of the goodwill it has built in the territory over the last decade, but CFI will be watching closely when Doctor Strange comes out later this year.

Despite the discouraging results from this weekend, Disney can celebrate that its total box office revenue from China this year reached RMB 4.732B ($720M) on Sunday taking just 149 days to surpass Universal’s record haul from last year. Disney also is still on track to become the first Hollywood studio to hit $1 billion in a territory outside of North America in a single calendar year.