On Screen China: Holiday Weekend Sweeps Away ‘Batman v Superman’

  • Batman v Superman set to lose 75% of its screens on second weekend
  • Chongqing Hotpot, My Beloved Bodyguardand Who Sleeps My Bro open Friday with even distribution
  • Martial arts director Sammo Hung’s My Beloved Bodyguard expected to win out during the three-day holiday.
Posters for Qingming Festival films outside a theater in Hubei Province (Crystal Yuan)

Posters for Qingming Festival films outside a theater in Hubei Province (Crystal Yuan)

The giant hole left by Batman v Superman’s epic underperformance in China will give ample market space to three local language films releasing in time for this weekend’s Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Festival).

Warner Bros.’ tentpole superhero film, intended to kickoff the DC Cinematic Universe, scored a solid if underwhelming $57 million debut last weekend, but has fallen off considerably throughout the week behind negative word of mouth. The film will lose 75% of its screens on Friday and will struggle to gross $100 million by the end of its run, well behind several earlier comic book film releases, including Disney/Marvel’s Iron Man 3, which came out in 2013 when China’s box office wasn’t even half the size it is now.

[table id=8 /]

The three-day Qingming Festival is typically a minor holiday at the Chinese box office since citizens tend to favor outdoor activities as temperatures begin to rise. Last year’s RMB 520 million in ticket sales during the holiday — led by action flick Wolf Warriors — came in a fair bit behind June’s Dragon Boat Festival (RMB 600 million) and the May Day Holiday (RMB 623 million).

This year’s three headlining films — dark comedy Chongqing Hotpot (火锅英雄), action film My Beloved Bodyguard (我的特工爷爷) and youth drama Who Sleeps My Bro (睡在我上铺的兄弟) are evenly matched and will open on Friday with an equal number of screens. Below, CFI takes a look at their box office potential.

Chongqing Hotpot (火锅英雄)
China Distribution: Wuzhou Film Distribution (五洲电影发行有限公司)

CFI Score – 5/10

cq hotpot

A group of young friends attempting to save their hotpot restaurant in spicy Chongqing accidentally uncover a bank vault hidden beneath their store in this dark comedy by second-time director Yang Qing (杨庆). Qing’s non-linear narrative style — last seen in 2009’s One Night in Supermarket — and regional humor specific to the southwestern metropolis  — limit the film’s mainstream appeal, but the addition of A-listers Bai Baihe (Monster Hunt, Go Away Mr. Tumour) and Chen Kun (Mojin: The Lost Legend) ensure robust opening weekend business.

My Beloved Bodyguard (我的特工爷爷)
China Distribution: Edko Distribution Company (安乐电影发行有限公司)

CFI Score: 6/10


Hong Kong martial arts stalwart Sammo Hung (洪金宝) stars in and directs this action film about a retired military official who returns to the tranquility of his hometown but is forced back into duty to protect his neighbor’s daughter. Hung has recruited a formidable list of guest stars (including Andy Lau) and industry analysts are already predicting that Bodyguard will become this year’s Qingming Festival “dark horse,” and it should win out during the three-day holiday.

Who Sleeps My Bro (睡在我上铺的兄弟)

China Distribution: Le Vision Pictures (乐视影业有限公司)

CFI Score: 4/10


Yet another “youthfulness film” (青春片 qīngchūn piàn) continues the interminable trend of melodramatic coming-of-age stories seen in films such as The Left Ear (RMB 485 million), My Old Classmate (RMB 454 million), and Our Times (RMB 360 million). The movie, which bears the clumsy English title of Who Sleeps MyBro, does flip the genre on its head by following a group of young male roommates at a Shanghai University. A strong marketing blitz targeting college campuses and featuring Bro’s good looking lead actors — known collectively as  “little fresh meat” (小鲜肉 xiaoxianrou) — will result in excellent opening day ticket sales among younger moviegoers, but negative word of mouth will hurt its chances of a lengthy run.

—Follow Jonathan Papish on Twitter @ChinaBoxOffice