Guillermo del Toro’s Best Picture Oscar winner, The Shape Of Water, got off to a fairy tale start in China this weekend, grossing $10.35M (RMB 65.7M) on 17,000 screens. The score tops all comps including Fox Searchlight stablemate Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri which bowed to $2.4M (RMB 15.2M) a few weeks back. It also helps push the awards-season darling across the $100M mark at the international box office.
Few recent Best Picture winners have even been released in China, so comps there are difficult to come by. However, Shape topped other pics that have figured heavily in recent seasons including The Darkest Hour which opened to $2.2M (RMB 14.1M) and La La Land, which tapped out a $9.35M (RMB 59.3M) debut last year before twirling to a $36M final. The Middle Kingdom result is doubly impressive for a film that leans towards the art house.
The Chinese opening is also Shape‘s best Day One performance ($3M+) and its best launch weekend worldwide. Its PROC share this frame was 11.1% for the No. 4 position behind Tomb Raider, Black Panther and Operation Red Sea.
Online sentiment has been strong. The Sally Hawkins-starrer has a 7.3 score on reviews site Douban and although del Toro was unable to visit China to promote the movie, he and Searchlight engaged with audiences there.
Post winning his Oscars, del Toro did a round of interviews for the Chinese press and spoke to a number of online influencers and ticketing apps. He also did greetings for some of those platforms and others.
Searchlight then held a premiere on March 14 at the Beijing Hoyts Cinema with local talent that included actors Dawei Tong and Yue Guan; singer Shen Zhou; and actor/dancer Fang Yin of Operation Red Sea — he also created his own dance video as an homage. Fox further invited VIP guests that included Chinese directors and filmmakers, such as Yukun Xin, screenwriter Jianan Ran and influencer Sida Jiang.
Shape will continue to see play this week, coincidentally before the release this Friday of the del Toro produced Pacific Rim: Uprising.