UPDATE OCT. 3: I’m trying to get the full story. But I’ve learned that everyone associated with the futuristic actioner Looperin China — Sony and TriStar Pictures, FilmDistrict, Endgame Entertainment, and the Chinese co-producer DMG Entertainment — made a blooper. Their execs reported early but wrong box office grosses. The reason is innocent enough: calculating grosses from some theaters mixed up dollars with yuan, making the tally appear much bigger than it actually was. The result is that no records were set, as execuives claimed. It was not the first time an international film debut beat the U.S., as executives also claimed. And no one knows whether it opened #1 in China. Instead of $23M-$25M grosses for its first weekend in China, one source tells me the actual figure may be only $5M-$7M. (One China film blog thinks it’s more like $4M-$5M.) I’m still trying to obtain the correct final box office tally (delayed by the Chinese National Holiday). Meanwhile I’ll be correcting my previous reports – although I did note that Endgame’s James Stern was “cagey” confirming the records because “we don’t have the final box office tally” but congratulated his team nonetheless.
I’ve learned that the Sony/TriStar Pictures, FilmDistrict, and Endgame Entertainment futuristic actioner Looper which was a co-production with China’s DMG Entertainment is setting records in that country. The Rian Johnson film pulled off a huge upset in China by opening #1 its first weekend with between $23M-$25M grosses. (Although there’s a debate about how little the U.S. companies get to keep vs the Chinese investor…) That’s on track to beat the U.S. opening. “If that happens, it would be the first time that China’s open outgrosses that of a U.S. open,” a source tells me. Endgame’s James Stern is cagey confirming this because there will be nothing official until Tuesday. He tells me: “While we don’t have the final box office tally’s because of the Chinese National Holiday, it looks as if we are #1 in that market and at least on par if not exceeding the U.S. box office, marking the very first time in history that China would be world’s leading market for an international film. A big congratulations to my partner Dan Mintz and his team at DMG are in order.”
The time-traveling hitman film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt became partly financed by the Chinese production company DMG and went through some major changes to please the new investors happy. The script was rewritten to take place in China instead of France 60 years into the future when China has become the largest superpower in the world and innovated time travel. Also Chinese actress Xu Qing was added to the cast as Willis’ wife. All this helped Looper’s chance of premiering day and date in China so it could take advantage of the country’s cinema building boom.
The strategy obviously paid off.