SUNDAY UPDATE: The Wandering Earth has become the fastest local film to cross the RMB 2B mark in China, getting there in just six days. The Chinese sci-fi epic has cumed an estimated $298M through Sunday and has been on an upward trajectory since it bowed last Tuesday, seeing increases every day. Play will continue throughout the month with watchers seeing the film potentially crossing RMB 4B ($593M) which would best last year’s CNY winner Operation Red Sea. Maoyan’s box office tracking system is calling RMB 5B. It has clear play ahead while Alita: Battle Angel will be the first Hollywood movie heading to the Middle Kingdom post-holiday.
As the holiday wraps, it will be interesting to watch how the mid-weeks play out on what is already a phenomenon. Getting to the RMB 2B milestone in six days means The Wandering Earth is playing ahead of last year’s Detective Chinatown 2 ($541M final) and the year prior’s Wolf Warrior 2 ($854M). The latter also stars Wu Jing and is the biggest Middle Kingdom movie ever.
On Saturday Wandering Earth had become the 4th Chinese movie ever to do over RMB 400M in one day, and then it did it again on Sunday. Yet even with all this momentum behind it, and some other pictures doing solid if not stellar business, the CNY box office is up only 1.5% over the same period last year. The total after six days is an estimated RMB 5.838B ($865.8M), though I understand admissions were down 15M to 130M.
Billed as China’s first sci-fi blockbuster, The Wandering Earth is adapted from a short story by The Three Body Problem’s Liu Cixin. Set in the near future against the backdrop of the imminent destruction of the sun, a project is hatched to move Earth’s residents to a remote star system and save the human race. The movie hails from Beijing Culture (Wolf Warrior, Dying To Survive, A Cool Fish) and also opened in the States this weekend. It set an IMAX record for highest grossing Chinese title, earning $775K from only 33 screens, a per-screen average of $23.5K.
In China, IMAX powered up $27.6M, a new record for the format and up 40% on last year. The Wandering Earth is now IMAX’s top grossing local pic ever in the market. It has already sest IMAX records for biggest opening week, surpassing Avengers: Infinity War; biggest single day box office for a local title; and biggest first three days for a local title.
IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond says, “Wandering Earth is the first blockbuster sci-fi film to be made in China and consumers in that country realize that the best way to experience blockbuster content is in IMAX. As China makes more high quality, blockbuster content, we believe audiences will continue to seek out the IMAX experience to see the movie the way the filmmakers intended.”
The $50M budgeted pic, which reportedly had 7,000 people working on it, is directed by Frant Gwo (aka Guo Fan) and has been praised by fans and critics with strong word of mouth powering those daily increases.
As for the other movies in the market, here are the estimated cumes through Sunday:
Crazy Alien – RMB 1,447.3M ($214.7M)
Pegasus – RMB 1,042.2M ($154.6M)
The New King Of Comedy – RMB 531M ($78.8M)
Boonie Bears: Blast Into The Past – RMB 460.5M ($68.3M)
The Knight Of Shadows – RMB 128.5M ($$19M)
Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year – RMB 111.9M ($16.6M)
Integrity – RMB 94.8 ($14M)
PREVIOUS, FRIDAY AM: It took four days, but China’s homegrown sci-fi epic The Wandering Earth has now pulled ahead of all other Chinese New Year titles to lead the holiday box office in the Middle Kingdom. With another estimated RMB 382 million ($56.6 million) on Friday, the cume is RMB 1.178 billion ($174.7M) through today.
The Wu Jing-starrer has increased each day and on Friday was up 11.7% over Thursday. The $50M budgeted pic, which reportedly had 7,000 people working on it, is directed by Frant Gwo (aka Guo Fan) and based on a short story by The Three Body Problem’s Liu Cixin. Word of mouth has been strong and buzz continues. I understand the movie will add showtimes on Saturday to total 137K and has higher pre-sales than it did today.
An opinion piece in China Daily today notes that the film “only borrows from the novel” and suggests that “domestic movie production teams have matured enough to develop new ideas on the creative basis of science-fiction writers, while the writers are willing to work together with movie productions so that the film results in the best possible performance.” Indeed, The Wandering Earth has been seen as a breakthrough for the local industry.
In other Chinese box office news, Crazy Alien has dropped to No. 2 for the frame, though it also crossed RMB 1B on Friday. Its cume is $166.8M. Rounding out the Top 5 are Pegasus ($119.7M), Boonie Bears: Blast Into the Past ($50.5M) and The New King of Comedy ($71.3M).
Overall, the total box office for the first four days of the New Year period is an estimated RMB 4.2B ($622.6M), slightly ahead of 2018 at the same point.
More updates to come.
PREVIOUS, THURSDAY AM UPDATE: China’s first homegrown sci-fi epic, The Wandering Earth, is continuing its upwards trajectory. After opening at No. 4 on Tuesday, the start of the Chinese New Year, it gained traction on Wednesday to move into the No. 2 spot, and today, it led the daily Middle Kingdom box office.
With an estimated additional RMB 342M ($50.7M) on Thursday, the increase from yesterday was about 33% for a local cume of RMB 800M ($118.6M). That still lags about $20M behind Crazy Alien‘s cume, though it should quickly make up the difference after Crazy Alien had led the first two days of the Lunar New Year period. The Wandering Earth‘s performance is testament to the positive buzz being generated by the $50M pic, which stars Wolf Warrior 2’s Wu Jing in a race against time to save the planet’s population.
For tomorrow, I understand Wandering Earth’s pre-sales outpace those of today’s while screenings will increase to about 127K. Friday is expected to post another increase. And there’s plenty of runway ahead for the Frant Gwo-directed title as it seeks blockbuster status.
Wandering Earth is also dominating China play for IMAX. The total in the format through Thursday is RMB 85M ($12.6M). In North America, the movie’s IMAX-exclusive run was $230K on its second day, landing at No. 10 on the domestic chart from just 33 cinemas. It moves into 2D play in North America on Friday.
In total, IMAX’s Chinese New Year box office is tracking 28% ahead of its record-setting 2018 results. That’s in contrast to the overall box office performance for the first three days of the holiday period which is up just 3.2% over last year to an estimated RMB 3.354B ($497.3M).
The run down of other films on the chart sees Crazy Alien at No. 2 for Thursday with a (so far) leading cume of RMB 926M ($137.3M). Racing comedy Pegasus was No. 3 on Thursday and has a running cume of RMB 670M ($99.3M). Boonie Bears: Blast Into The Past moved up to 4th place in the daily standings, though its cume is still lower at RMB 272M ($40.4M). Stephen Chow’s The New King Of Comedy was thus in 5th, but with a cume of RMB 444M ($65.8M).
Struggling at the bottom of the pack are Jackie Chan-starrer The Knight Of Shadows (RMB 109M/$16.2M), Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year (RMB 93.4M/$13.9M) and Integrity (RMB 83.1M/$12.3M).
More to come throughout the weekend.
PREVIOUS, WEDNESDAY UPDATE: What a difference a day makes. As expected, there are already some shifts on the box office leader board after Day 2 of the Chinese New Year holiday. We reported yesterday that the eight major openers set a new single-day box office record in the Middle Kingdom, led by fantasy comedy Crazy Alien (see below). That film is again No. 1 today, and in the overall standings with a $102M running total. But climbing up from 4th place on Tuesday, sci-fi epic The Wandering Earth landed the No. 2 spot today, just below Crazy Alien. It’s followed by racing comedy Pegasus, Stephen Chow’s The New King Of Comedy and animated entry Boonie Bears: Blast Into The Past which each slid a notch (broken-out figures are below).
It’s not unusual to see jockeying and frontloading during this Middle Kingdom frame. Already, four of the eight new films dropped 50% on Day 2 while the total box office for all films combined is down 32% in 24 hours. With an estimated RMB 2.45B ($363M) across two days, sources indicate the current Chinese New Year period is up just 10% over 2018. There’s still a lot of play in this week-long session, and there will be further shifts with the ultimate winners becoming clearer in the days ahead.
The Wandering Earth certainly looks to have momentum and buzz — even getting a lot of attention outside the Middle Kingdom. Billed as China’s first homegrown sci-fi blockbuster, the Wu Jing-starrer today increased by 35% to gross RMB 258M ($38.2M) for a $68M cume including its record-setting Monday midnights. I understand it has topped pre-sales and screening times for tomorrow (Day 3 of CNY).
Above it, Crazy Alien added RMB 284M (-31% from Monday) for a $102M running total. In 3rd place, Han Han’s Pegasus, which features Crazy Alien actor Teng Shen, dipped 41% to RMB 189M ($28M) for $75M to date. In 4th, The New King Of Comedy slipped 61% and has cumed RMB 376.5M ($55.8M). Rounding out the Top 5, Boonie Bears: Blast Into The Past saw an 11% increase for RMB 195.6M ($29M) thus far.
In the three bottom slots are Jackie Chan-starrer The Knight Of Shadows (-58%/$14M cume); live action/animation hybrid Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year (-61%/$12M) and Hong Kong thriller Integrity (-69%/$10.9M).
Meanwhile, IMAX is having a ball ringing in the Year of the Pig. The company logged RMB 45M on Tuesday, a new Chinese New Year opening day record for the format and a 12.8% increase over 2018. IMAX has three films playing on 604 screens across its network: The Wandering Earth, Crazy Alien and Pegasus. The multi-film approach allows IMAX to program all pics and then adjust screen share based on demand and performance.
Today, the three films made an estimated RMB 35M, a 30% hike on CNY Day 2 in 2018. The Wandering Earth continues to lead, now with an estimated IMAX cume of RMB 50.7M ($7.5M), followed by Crazy Alien with RMB 23.4M ($3.5M) and Pegasus at RMB 5.8M ($860K).
IMAX is also giving The Wandering Earth a 3D release in select North American theaters with the first day grossing an estimated $158K in 33. There was notable uptake in New York, Boston and Santa Clara. The film goes wide in 2D on Friday.
PREVIOUS, TUESDAY: China rang in the Year of the Pig with a new single-day box office record on Tuesday, led by comedy Crazy Alien, the third in a trilogy from director Ning Hao — and featuring Matthew Morrison in the cast. With an estimated RMB 413M ($61.2M), Crazy Alien topped a host of new entries at Middle Kingdom turnstiles. For all pics combined, today’s box office totaled an estimated RMB 1.46B ($216M), per Deadline sources, beating last year’s one-day milestone.
The bulk of receipts came from Crazy Alien, racing comedy Pegasus, Stephen Chow’s The New King Of Comedy and the big-budget sci-fi epic The Wandering Earth. Day 1 figures can be misleading, however, and those Top 4 films are likely to jockey with each other over the coming holiday frame. Each of the Top 5 movies, which also includes Boonie Bears: Blast Into The Past, will increase showtimes tomorrow, led by Crazy Alien and The Wandering Earth (which has the best online sentiment so far of all titles released today).
Crazy Alien follows Ning’s Crazy Stone (2006) and Crazy Racer (2009), as well as his more recent hit Breakup Buddies. The story centered on brothers who hope to make a fortune from the unexpected arrival of an alien visitor has an 8.6 rating on Maoyan and a 6.7 on Douban. The director’s frequent collaborator Huang Bo stars with Teng Shen.
Teng is also in the No. 2 film today, Pegasus, which made RMB 320M ($47.4M). Directed by multi-hyphenate Han Han (Duckweed), the comedy follows a former race car champion who decides to return to the track, but he has no money, no car, no teammates and a license that has to be renewed. That one is faring a bit better with audiences and critics at a 9 on Maoyan and 7.2 on Douban.
In at No. 3 today, The Mermaid director Chow’s The New King Of Comedy grossed RMB 271 ($40.2M) with online sentiment at an 8.5 on Maoyan, but a 6.2 on Douban. Details of the sequel to 1999’s aspiring actors story King Of Comedy have been kept close to the vest ahead of the holiday, although anticipation has been high for a return to veteran Chow’s early roots.
The biggest budget title of the week, the $50M The Wandering Earth, also has the biggest scores from aggregators. On Maoyan, the sci-fi epic is at 9.4 and on Douban it’s got an 8.4. As we reported yesterday, the film from director Frant Gwo (aka Guo Fan) set a new midnights record for a China title on Monday. Today, the movie grossed RMB 191 ($28.3M) in 4th place. With the previews included, the estimated box office so far is RMB 204.5/$30.3M.
Billed as China’s first sci-fi blockbuster, The Wandering Earth is adapted from a short story by The Three Body Problem’s Liu Cixin and stars Wolf Warrior’s Wu Jing. Set in the near future against the backdrop of the imminent destruction of the sun, a project is hatched to move Earth’s residents to a remote star system and save the human race. The movie hails from Beijing Culture (Wolf Warrior, Dying To Survive, A Cool Fish) and is also out this weekend in about 600 Imax China theaters. It releases in North America on Friday.
At No. 5 is the animated Boonie Bears: Blast Into The Past (RMB 74.5M/$11M), followed by Jackie Chan-starrer The Knight Of Shadows (RMB 67.5M/$10M), animated/live-action hybrid Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year (RMB 58.4M/$8.7M) and Hong Kong thriller Integrity (RMB 57M/$8.5M). Despite a sensational viral campaign, Peppa is coming in low online with just a 4.9 Douban score.