The official Chinese premiere of The Revenant doesn’t actually take place until Sunday, but the film has already snared big box office since bowing in local theaters on Friday. The first day’s gross came in at about $11M, and with another $13M or so on Saturday, it’s set up for what’s expected to be a $30M+ weekend. The start for the Alejandro G Inarritu-helmed frontier revenge tale is a rare feat for an R-rated Hollywood pic — not many such films secure China releases or open quite so hot. Oscar-winning star Leonardo DiCaprio, affectionately adored by locals as “Little Lee,” will attend the Beijing premiere tomorrow.
The actor’s popularity in the Middle Kingdom can’t be underestimated. He’s been a huge star there since Titanic, and his pro-environmental leanings are also understood to be widely appreciated. Local social media exploded upon his Oscar win last month.
The film’s local release is a win for backer New Regency. President/CEO Brad Weston tells me The Revenant’s slot in China was part of a “really important initiative… Birdman, 12 Years A Slave, Gone Girl and Noah weren’t released there, so this was a big deal for us.” The Revenant went out via Fox in the rest of the world, but New Regency held back China, and as part of a three-picture deal with local company Guangdong Alpha Animation and Culture, sold it the Middle Kingdom distribution rights in exchange for a piece of equity. Alpha then partnered with Bona Film and Huaxia to distribute.
Conversations to release the film in the PROC began in December, Weston says. That was well before the Oscars which resulted in three wins including for DiCaprio and Inarritu, and a hat-trick Best Cinematographer prize for Emmanuel Lubezki.
A date-range of late February through early April was discussed, “and when the date came together, it came together very quickly. It was a coordinated effort between Alpha, Bona, Huaxia and IMAX.” I hear The Revenant has all the IMAX screens in China this weekend; we’ll have full figures tomorrow.
It’s been reported that the movie had to go through some cuts to please the censors, but Weston says it was “in total, maybe 90 seconds, maybe less.”
The post-release premiere for The Revenant in China is not unique. The Mexican red carpet also came a few days after the bow, with DiCaprio and Inarritu in attendance. That helped push mid-weeks and the following frame. The Revenant will similarly get a bump from Little Lee’s appearances tomorrow, but with Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice looming on the horizon it will be interesting to watch how Revenant holds next week.
As of last frame’s actuals, The Revenant was at $263.9M internationally and the global total at roughly $443M. Offshore holds have been solid — last frame drops were all less than 50%, including in some places where the film was in its 10th session. China could quickly become the biggest overseas play for the film, unseating the UK.
And there’s more to come with Japan, the last territory, still due to bow in April. DiCaprio is headed there this week for the film’s Wednesday premiere.