On Screen China: Disney Hopes ‘Jungle’ will Rumble Box Office

  • CFI Score 8/10 — The Jungle Book combines a story for all ages with 3D dazzle
  • ‘Jungle’ director Favreau not unfamiliar with China—his Iron Man 3 grossed RMB 755 M
  • Expect explosive weekend fueled by solid word of mouth and IMAX premium ticket sales
  • Disney could be on its way to becoming the first Hollywood studio to gross $1 billion in China

junglebookThe Jungle Book opens day-and-date in China and the U.S. on Friday April 15 (Courtesy, Disney)

Disney looks to grow its fortunes in China with the live-action/CGI hybrid The Jungle Book (奇幻森林), which opens day-and-date with the U.S. on Friday coming on the heels of an unprecedented run by its original animation Zootopia.

In 2015, Universal Studios led Hollywood’s Big Six in China with RMB 4.32 billion ($667 million*) in annual ticket sales, bolstered by the #2 and #6 highest-grossing films of the year— Furious 7 (RMB 2.42 billion) and Jurassic World (RMB 1.42 billion).

We’re just over one quarter into 2016, but it’s already clear Disney will dominate Hollywood’s take at the Chinese box office this year. Disney’s two releases so far in 2016 — Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Zootopia — accounted for 54% of all imported film revenue as of March 30, or RMB 2.16 billion ($333 million).

And with the buzz for The Jungle Book hitting a fever pitch ahead of the weekend, and early talk of the May 6 day-and-date release of Captain America: Civil War Disney could become the first Hollywood studio to hit $1 billion in China in a single year, helped along by the potential 2016 releases of Finding Dory, Alice Through The Looking Glass, Doctor Strange, and Star Wars: Rogue One.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Below, CFI takes a look just at The Jungle Book’s box office potential.

The Jungle Book (奇幻森林 Qíhuàn Sēnlín, lit. ‘Fantasy Forest’)
China Distribution: China Film Group Corporation (中国电影集团公司)
U.S. Distribution: Walt Disney Pictures

CFI Score 8/10

On its surface, The Jungle Book seems to contain several key ingredients that have combined in the past into a recipe for Chinese success:

A story for all-ages (Monster Hunt – RMB 2.44B) imbued with whimsical Disney narrative elements (Zootopia – RMB 1.51B), told through dazzling 3D visuals created with cutting edge technology (Avatar – RMB 1.34B) that seamlessly mixes live-action performances and life-like computer-generated animals (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – RMB 709M, Life of Pi  — RMB 573M), all pulled together by a director who knows the Chinese market well (John Favreau, whose Iron Man 3  grossed RMB 755 million in China).

The buzz from Chinese media has also been exceptionally strong with many outlets citing the stellar initial reaction by Western critics on review aggregate RottenTomatoes (currently sitting at 92% Fresh).

Presales for Friday’s debut total a modest RMB 20 million as of this writing, but CFI expects an explosive weekend performance fueled by solid word of mouth. Moreover, Jungle Book will maintain a dominant hold on the country’s 200+ premium-priced IMAX screens until fellow Disney juggernaut Captain America hits theaters. Jungle Book should easily climb into the RMB 1 billion club.

* Using current exchange rates (RMB 6.48 = $1.00)