On Screen China: Limp 2016 Box Office to Close with a Whimper

A down year for China’s box office will end with a weak weekend.


China’s swan-diving box office will go out aptly this weekend with a whimper as 2016 makes room for a handful of new releases straggling in for the three-day New Year’s public holiday.

Holdovers Railroad Tigers (RMB 329 million, US$47.3 million*), which continues to draw skepticism over its reported gross, and The Great Wall (RMB 903 million, $130.0 million*), still chugging along in its third weekend of release, will most likely vie for first place this weekend, joined also by a new romantic comedy, Some Like It Hot (no relation to Billy Wilder’s classic 1959 comedy).

Meanwhile, the Wong Kar-Wai-produced See You Tomorrow (RMB 360 million, $51.8 million*) will struggle to overcome its largely negative word-of-mouth and drop precipitously from first place last weekend to fourth place this frame—disappointing perhaps, but a disappointment that has to be measured in relative terms, given that See You Tomorrow has already outgrossed all of Wong’s acclaimed and award-winning prior work.

Official box office numbers for the year won’t be released until January 1, but the underperformance of The Great Wall, Railroad Tigers, and See You Tomorrow, as well as feeble expectations for this weekend’s other new releases will cause December to become the seventh month in 2016 to suffer a year-on-year decline. The annual box office will end up at RMB 45.5 billion ($6.54 million), just a three percent increase in local currency over 2015, and the first year to see only single-digit growth in over a decade.

*Estimated total through Thursday, December 29