Sci-Fi ‘Passengers’ Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt Arriving in China

The stars’ visit likely portends a China release of the film sometime in January. 

Either the studios behind science fiction space romance Passengers are hoping to make a lot of money from DVD and video streaming sales in China, or the film is getting a cinematic release here. Why else would stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt be coming to Beijing next week to promote it?

The two stars have confirmed that they will be in Beijing next Saturday, December 17, to promote Passengers, which is called Tàikōng lǚkè (太空旅客) or “Space Travelers” in Mandarin — just four days before it opens in North America on December 21, according to the movie’s official Weibo account.

Producer Stephen Hamel no doubt laid down some of the preparation for the film’s roll-out when he took part in a forum put on by film research firm EntGroup in Beijing last week.

As the producers have told local media, Lawrence and Pratt will be attending a press conference and walking the red carpet in the capital. Local media were saying as early as September that it had a good chance of arriving in China.

Asked if the film was getting a release in China, a source close to the project told China Film Insider it was “safe to assume that.”

It’s also probably safe to assume the movie will hit screens in January. December is already chock-a-block, and judging from the last few visits by Hollywood stars to China, they’re usually timed to fall two to three weeks before the film is released in the country; just enough to give the marketing a helpful boost and take up some mind share.

You know Oscar winner Lawrence has well and truly made it into the hearts and minds of Chinese audiences because they’ve given her a colorful nickname. Chinese JLaw fans refer to her as Da Biaojie (大表姐) or “older cousin.” ‘Older cousin’ is an old China hand by now; Passengers marks her ninth film in China.

Despite her Chinese appellation, Lawrence is a spring chicken at 26, but she’s already a household name thanks to her role as Katniss Everdeen, the freedom fighter in the dystopian Hunger Games (饥饿游戏) series — all four of which screened in the country. That particular franchise racked up a total of RMB 717 million ($104.2 million).

Chinese fans have yet to come up with a snappy sobriquet for Chris Pratt, though he’s no stranger to China having had three films open here already — Wanted (2008), Guardians of the Galaxy (银河护卫队) (2014), and Jurassic World (侏罗纪世界) (2015). After Passengers, Chinese audiences could be seeing a lot more of him if Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Avengers: Infinity War, and Jurassic Park 2 get approval.

Pratt has clearly been working overtime to connect with Chinese audiences. His official Weibo account, launched in late September, has been steadily dripping out marketing material and short videos including his first, rather manic message to his fans, which at time of publication clock in at 43,800 and growing.

Ni hao China! Chris Pratt here. So excited to come visit you in December to talk about my new movie Passengers. Also, this is my first Weibo post — the first of many,” the 37-year-old said in his first personal post on November 5.

Directed by The Imitation Game helmer Morten Tyldums from a screenplay provided by Jon Spaiths, the film sees Pratt and Lawrence play interstellar travelers who wake up from suspended animation 90 years too early. It’s a co-production from Sony and Village Roadshow, but Wanda Pictures is listed as “in association with” the film on IMDb.

In September Wanda announced it was teaming up with Sony Pictures to help market its films in China and also reportedly has the option to buy a small stake in their films.

The marketing push appears to be having its desired effect, with the films’s hashtag already viewed by 21.8 million Weibo users and tens of thousands of users already discussing it on the platform.

“If they come all this way to promote it and it doesn’t make it onto screens, they’ve wasted their time,” said one commenter on popular film news portal Mtime, before adding: “[all because of that] dreadful SAPPRFT” a swipe at the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television, the country’s powerful media watchdog.