The Wandering Earth

Netflix has acquired Chinese sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth, taking global SVOD rights excluding Mainland China. I understand the streaming service has also picked up 2nd run rights in North America (where CMC Pictures has theatrical), Australia, New Zealand and Korea. Billed as the first Hollywood style sci-fi blockbuster out of the Middle Kingdom, the movie this past weekend became the No. 2 film ever at the Chinese box office with $560M local through Sunday. Through Wednesday, it had grossed $604M. That’s after just 16 days — and its run is not yet over.

Netflix does not operate directly in China, but previously had a now-expired relationship with streaming service iQiyi. I hear that the local streaming rights have gone to Youku which is also an investor in The Wandering Earth.

The film is adapted from a short story by The Three Body Problem’s Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin. It boasts a featured appearance by Wolf Warrior’s Wu Jing who has become an undeniable force at Chinese turnstiles — his Wolf Warrior 2 remains the all-time China box office champ at $854M.

Over the Chinese New Year period we watched as TWE went from strength to strength in the Middle Kingdom. Hardly a sleeper, it was primed to win the holiday session and did not disappoint as it continued a daily rise, breaking speed records to milestones along the way. Over this past weekend, it topped Avengers: Infinity War to become the highest-grossing IMAX release ever in China. The total there was $43.7M through Sunday.

Set in the near future against the backdrop of the imminent destruction of the sun, The Wandering Earth charts a project that’s hatched to move the planet’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 had a North American theatrical run which has yielded about $4M so far.

Directed and written by Frant Gwo, the movie stars Qu Chuxiao, Li Guangjie, Ng Man-tat and Zhao Jinmai. It employed some 7,000 workers with post-production and special effects spanning two years, including more than 3,000 conceptual designs, over 10,000 specifically-built props, and more than 2,000 special effects shots. With a reported $50M budget, it has been hailed as a breakthrough for the local industry. James Cameron, in town this week to promote Alita: Battle Angel, which releases Friday and will duke it out with Wandering Earth‘s hold, has also praised the film.

Netflix’s Jerry Zhang, Manager of Content Acquisition, says the service is “committed to providing entertainment lovers with access to a wide variety of global content. With its high-quality production and story-telling, we believe that The Wandering Earth will be loved by sci-fi fans around the world.”

Director Gwo added, “This is a movie created for the Chinese audience around the world, and it has been positively received since its premiere, we are very excited about it. To my surprise, this movie also resonates outside Mainland China. Netflix will translate it into 28 languages, enabling more viewers to enjoy it regardless of geographical and linguistic differences.”