Friday marked the start of the unofficial summer “blackout” period at Chinese multiplexes. While Hollywood titles like Jurassic World and San Andreas are still in the Middle Kingdom marketplace, there won’t be anything new from the majors for several weeks. This is one of the times of year when an unofficial span is implemented so that local movies get a chance to shine at the box office, and lift Chinese market share. December 2014 was also such a period, but had mixed results when John Woo’s The Crossing and Jiang Wen’s Gone With The Bullets both underperformed. China nevertheless slightly edged out Hollywood in 2014, even with Transformers: Age Of Extinction having taken a then-record $301M last July.
In this blackout zone, China has lined up several potential blockbusters -– and is likely hoping for a big swing given the supercharged performance of recent Hollywood movies. Furious 7 made more than $390M this spring to become the biggest-grossing film of all time there; Avengers: Age Of Ultron hammered out $235.5M; and Jurassic World’s current run is $167M+ after 12 days. Local movies that have found success this year include a group from the last unoffical blackout during 2015’s Lunar New Year in February. The Man From Macau II with Chow Yun-fat made over $150M and Dragon Blade with Jackie Chan, Adrien Brody and John Cusack came out at around $117M.
Titles that will vie for supremacy during the next several weeks are a mix of comedy, romance, and action (see all trailers below). Among them is this weekend’s release, SPL II: A Time For Consequences. The not-exactly-a-sequel to 2005’s SPL: Sha Po Lang (Kill Zone) is a Hong Kong/China co-production with Thailand’s Tony Jaa in the lead. The action drama set against the backdrop of human organ trafficking grossed $40M in three markets in its debut frame, the bulk from the Middle Kingdom:
On deck for this coming Friday is Hollywood Adventures. Primed for success given the recent penchant for buddy comedies, road movies and all things Vicki Zhao, it’s backed by Bruno Wu’s Sun Seven Stars Media and produced by Justin Lin through his Perfect Storm banner. Having shot in LA, it moves the action west, with cameos by folks like Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg, along with Robert Patrick and Missy Pyle. Zhao stars with Huang Xiaoming and Tong Dawei, both of whom are big TV and movie draws. Hollywood Adventures is released locally by Beijing Enlight and plans are underway for a U.S. release.
On July 3, Farewell My Concubine helmer Chen Kaige’s epic The Monk Comes Down The Mountain will go out — and be digitally remastered in Imax 3D. The action drama follows a young monk forced to leave his Taoist temple and head into an unknown world. Wang Baoqiang, Aaron Kwok, Chang Chen, Chilling Lin and Fan Wei star. Sony has the movie internationally.
On July 9, the fourth film in the hit Tiny Times franchise hits theaters. Tiny Times 4 is a romance comedy, again directed by Guo Jingming, author of the book that forms the basis of the series. Stars Yang Mi, Amber Kuo and Bea Hayden Kuo return as a group of friends navigating life in Shanghai.
Hollywood films that have just begun their international rollouts like Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out, Universal/Illumination’s Minions, and others which are gearing up such as Paramount’s Terminator: Genisys and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, do not yet have dates, though they will come. Typically, studios are informed of release dates for their films by the Chinese powers that be about 30-45 days ahead of time.