China Box Office: ‘Tarzan’ Swings to First Place, Jackie Chan’s ‘Skiptrace’ Could Lure Summer out of Doldrums

  • The Legend of Tarzan ended the week on top with US$7 million.
  • Jackie Chan’s Skiptrace gets a CFI Score of 7.5/10
  • Renny Harlin-directed film carries a big “minimum box office guarantee” for Beijing Talent International Media Co.  -1_1200x750

Warner Bros.’ The Legend of Tarzan received a rare July release date on Tuesday and made the best of the depressed summer moviegoing market, swinging to first place with a RMB 46.8 million ($7.0 million) debut.

The entirety of July is typically reserved for domestic films, but Chinese regulators loosened restrictions this year in an apparent effort to inject some much needed energy into the market. China’s booming box office, which grew nearly 50 percent in 2015, has increased only 21 percent through the first half of 2016.

Tarzan’s stint as the king of the daily box office will be cut short on Thursday with the opening of Jackie Chan’s new action-comedy Skiptrace. Originally scheduled for a Christmas 2015 release, Skiptrace is perhaps the only Chinese-language film with the potential to gross RMB 1 billion ($150 million) this summer.

CFI takes a look at Skiptrace’s box office potential below.

Skiptrace (绝地逃亡)

China Distribution – Beijing Talent International Media Co.,Ltd (北京唐德国际文化传媒有限公司)
US Distribution – Saban Films

CFI Score – 7.5/10

Helmed by Finnish action director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger), Skiptrace comes to the Chinese mainland as a China-HK co-production. Jackie Chan, an internationally recognized martial arts superstar, is still a huge draw for Chinese audiences; Chan’s last few films performed strongly at the box office (Dragon Blade – $116.8 million; Chinese Zodiac – $145 million; and Police Story 2013 – $86.3 million).

Despite the reliability of Jackie Chan’s star-power at the box office, Skiptrace’s reported budget of RMB 400 million ($60 million) means the film is a risky venture for distribution company Beijing Talent International.

To minimize their exposure, Beijing Talent International signed a “minimum box office guarantee” of RMB 1 billion ($153 million) with several powerful parties including Alibaba, Shanghai Hehe Film, and Tianjin Lianrui Pictures, who provided marketing costs reported at RMB 70 million ($10.5 million) as well as expertise.

The “minimum box office guarantee” model is currently in vogue in the Chinese film industry and was last used to great effect on Stephen Chow’s blockbuster The Mermaid, China’s highest-grossing film ever with $550 million.

The Skiptrace contract stipulates Beijing Talent will receive 70 percent of the excess profit if the film grosses between RMB 1-1.2 billion ($150-$180 million) at the box office, while the guarantor parties will receive 30 percent. Between RMB 1.2-1.4 billion ($180-$210 million) in ticket sales, the two sides will split the profits, but if Skiptrace grosses RMB 1.4 billion or above ($210 million-plus), the guarantors will receive the windfall at 70 percent against Beijing Talent’s 30 percent.

Skiptrace also stars Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame, as well as superstar Fan Bingbing whose own entertainment company Ai Mei Shen was acquired by Beijing Talent International in March 2016 for a reported sum of RMB 800 million – RMB 1.3 billion.