On Screen China: ‘Wonder Woman’ to the Rescue?

Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe secures its first release in China since last year’s bomb Batman v. Superman. Can strong word of mouth for Gal Gadot’s badass Wonder Woman overcome China’s unfamiliarity with the character and a growing apathy towards superhero films in general?

Director Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine at the Chinese premiere of ‘Wonder Woman’

Wonder Woman (神奇女侠)

China Distribution – China Film Group Corporation (中国电影集团公司)
US Distribution – Warner Bros. Pictures

Following a disastrously front-loaded box office performance for its flagship Batman v. Superman ($95.7 million total after a $58 million opening weekend) and a non-release for the ensemble film Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. will attempt to right its DC Extended Universe ship in the world’s second largest movie market with Friday’s day-and-date release of Wonder Woman.

For a chance at box office success, Warner — along with local production partners Tencent Pictures and Wanda Pictures, both given extra mianzi with logos front and center on Wonder Woman‘s worldwide promotional material — will need to shake off both China’s unfamiliarity with the badass female warrior as well as growing signs of superhero fatigue amongst local moviegoers.

Pre-sales for Wonder Woman had been lackluster up until the last minute, but Warner Bros. wisely chose to ramp up marketing late this week trumpeting the film’s stellar critical reviews and organizing two hundred advanced screenings Wednesday night to build word of mouth. The moves seem to have paid off: early Douban and Maoyan ratings are much higher than those for the average superhero flick and opening day pre-sales saw a major uptick.

Wonder Woman will have a tough run ahead with major Hollywood releases stealing screens every subsequent Friday in June, so its opening weekend will be key to its success. CFI predicts an opening weekend in the vicinity of RMB 250 million ($35 million) and a final total between RMB 500 – 550 million ($70 – $80 million), a definite success for a standalone superhero film lacking both the built-in fanbase and the brand awareness of Marvel.

Here at On Screen China, weekly box office analysis primarily concerns the weekend’s widest releases, films with the biggest breakout potential, and other newsworthy titles. But each weekend, smaller films, frequently referred to as “cannon fodder” (paohui or 炮灰) in the Chinese media, squeeze into theaters, rarely selling more than a few hundred thousand dollars’ worth of tickets before disappearing into obscurity. The following table details these lesser releases in order to provide a sense of the huge scope of the world’s second largest film industry.

Film TitleGenreProduction CompanyDistribution Company
The Lost City of Z



Plan B Entertainment

Huaxia Film Distribution


Polar Star




Beijing CFC Films


Life and Death




Red Army Primary School


Main Melody

Hainan Lige Entertainment


Hainan Lige Entertainment


My Unique Childhood




Jinyi Qiankun Distribution




Jiecheng Shiji Cultural Industry Group