After rocking major markets in Asia, Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody is headed to China. The National Arthouse Film Alliance said this morning that the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic will get a Middle Kingdom release. It did not specify a date, however reviews aggregator Douban, where the film has an 8.8 score, has it logged on an unconfirmed March 22. Fox’s official Weibo account also released a Chinese poster for the Oscar winning movie, captioned “The Show Must Go On!” (See the full poster below.)
The news comes amid reports out of China that star Rami Malek’s Best Actor Oscar acceptance speech was edited by local broadcaster Mango TV. Malek on Sunday said the film could help those struggling with their identity. “We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life unapologetically,” Malek said. But Mango replaced the phrase “gay man” in the subtitles with “special group.” Mango previously came under fire in 2018 for blurring rainbow flags during the Eurovision Song Contest.
It is not clear if Bo Rhap will face edits during its theatrical release, although I hear it has passed Chinese censors. The Queen story has been released in other SE Asia markets, in some cases with cuts. Homosexuality can be a sensitive, but not taboo, subject in China and the market’s history with homosexual-themed content has been mixed. In 2018, Luca Guadagnino’s Oscar-winning romance, Call Me By Your Name, was pulled from the lineup of the Beijing Film Festival with no official reason given for the move. The previous year, however, the People’s Daily took pains to say local censors kept the “gay moment” in Disney’s Beauty And The Beast despite controversy in other markets.
Bo Rhap, which also scooped Oscars for John Ottman’s editing and sound mixing and editing, has been on a tear at the global and international box office. It’s grossed over $860M worldwide including $648M overseas. A large part of the offshore cume has come from Asia. In Japan, it is the first foreign movie to cross $100M since Beauty And The Beast and the first Fox title to do so since Avatar. In Korea, it’s taken over $75M. The figures were boosted by sing-along screenings that have made Bo Rhap must-see repeat viewing.
With only about $140M to go — and as markets like Japan and Holland have seen infinitesimal drops recently — could China be the hub that helps push Bo Rhap over $1B? That’s likely a stretch. Still, I’m told that while the fan base for Queen is not huge in the Middle Kingdom, the marquee songs are well-known. There could also be a knock-on wannasee effect given how well the film has performed elsewhere overseas, and Chinese audiences respond strongly to stories that have an emotional edge.
An arthouse release indicates that screenings will be limited. However, I understand that if Bo Rhap does well, more theaters will ask to play the film. This was the case last year with Fox Searchlight’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri which ultimately did over $10M in China.
If the March 22 date on Bo Rhap is correct, then it would slot in two weeks after Captain Marvel and one week before Dumbo head to the Middle Kingdom. We have reached out to Fox for comment and will update with more information as it becomes available.