‘Martian,’ ‘Point Break’ Deliver 1-2 Import Punch to Four New Chinese Films

An ad for a Beijing winter resort weekend tied to the Chinese release of 'Point Break.'

An ad for a Beijing winter resort excursion tied to the Chinese release of Point Break.

Director Ridley Scott’s sci-fi survival saga The Martian held on to its lead at China’s box office for a second weekend, grossing $13.7 million and pushing up its overall take to $75.1 million after 12 days in theaters. The 20th Century Fox film narrowly edged out Alcon Entertainment’s extreme sports action film Point Break, which opened with an impressive $11.8 million over three days.

Point Break captivated Chinese moviegoers with a Hollywood serving of high-octane hyper-real stunts, beating out four new homegrown Chinese-language films—Fall In Love Like A Star, Impossible, Oh My God, and Go Lala Go 2—all of which failed to gain traction beyond their limited target demographics.

The Martian’s dominant debut and the fact its audience ratings are the highest of any import so far this year overshadowed a 60% drop in weekend ticket sales as it lost two-thirds of its showtimes. Still, the Matt Damon vehicle fared well for its second weekend compared with earlier revenue-sharing imports, such as Spectre and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part II , whose second-weekend sales tumbled 75% and 89%, respectively, in far thinner competition.

Point Break outpaced Fall In Love Like A Star and Impossible despite receiving less screen time from Chinese exhibitors. Word of mouth appeared to be the deciding factor as Point Break easily scored the highest rating of any new release this weekend: 6.9/10 on arts and culture website Douban. “From start to finish, my pulse was off the charts and my palms wouldn’t stop sweating. It was fantastic!” Douban user Clear Sky was quoted in The People’s Daily online.

Others were more enamored with the personalities behind the death-defying feats: “I have no interest in doing extreme sports myself, all I want is to find a boyfriend who does.” However, most moviegoers were more critical of the plot. In a thread discussing Point Break on zhihu.com, one user was blunt: “I’d suggest they compile a version of the movie with all of the stunts edited together. It would’ve saved me time because I played with my phone during the rest of the movie.” Another wrote: “Point Beak was nothing more than an extreme sports promotional video.”

Despite the harsh sentiments regarding its lackluster plot, Point Break looks to continue its dominance over the next week and a half as demand for The Martian wanes. There is little in the way of new competition until the December 18 release of Mojin—The Lost Legend. Until then, Point Break will gain from good word of mouth as it spreads from the east coast to the interior, into third- and fourth-tier cities where the moviegoing track record shows moviegoers have a taste for spectacle over substance.

As Chinese interest in seasonal sports builds ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Point Break co-producer and financier DMG Entertainment of Beijing and Los Angeles shrewdly partnered with Mylin Valley, a winter resort three hours north of Beijing, to offer lucky winners packaged excursions to experience skiing, snowboarding, and rock climbing first hand.  As one user on Douban stated: “I may not be the type who takes risks, but seeing this movie opened up my eyes. Who knew this world had so many crazy and exciting sports?” Such sentiments, along with varied marketing tie-ins, are likely to increase as the 2022 Games approach .

—Follow Jonathan Papish on Twitter @ChinaBoxOffice

(This story was updated at 10:10pm ET, Monday, December 7).