SUNDAY UPDATE: As expected, Warner Bros’ re-release of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar had a blast in China on Sunday, grossing $2.85M. That gives the 2014 saga bragging rights to the Middle Kingdom’s biggest single day and highest ‘opening’ day gross since cinemas in low-risk areas resumed operations on July 20. At about $7.6M, Sunday was also the highest grossing day overall in the market post-COVID closures and contributed to a three-day weekend that was worth $17.6M across all titles.
Interstellar’s original run in China grossed $122M, and the reception on the re-release is a good sign for Nolan’s Tenet which starts rolling out internationally on August 26. A China date has yet to be confirmed, though the timing could line up.
Like Tenet, Interstellar was shot with IMAX cameras and this weekend’s China tally includes $660K from the large format. The film played on 461 IMAX screens which also accounted for 72% of midnight previews ($130K).
The full weekend in China was led by Universal’s Dolittle with $3.32M for a $12M cume. Of that, another $400K came from 442 IMAX screens. The IMAX total is now $1.3M.
In other China play, local pic The Enigma Of Arrival ended its first frame with $3M, while Paramount’s Sonic The Hedgehog had a sluggish start of $1.2M from 5,196 locations. It appears there is still some reticence on the part of families to take small children to theaters, so younger skewing titles are seeing tepid results as the demo is not rushing out. Searchlight’s Jojo Rabbit got its start with about $717K.
Next weekend adds Fox/Disney’s Ford V Ferrari and DreamWorks/Amblin/Universal’s 1917 (released locally by Alibaba). Each will have an IMAX component in China. They will be followed by a reissue of Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone in 3D and Sony’s Bad Boys For Life on August 14. And finally, The Eight Hundred, the first Chinese movie shot entirely with IMAX cameras, will be released on August 21. The film was originally scheduled for summer 2019, but was pulled from its July date over what were believed to be concerns it was sending a political message that was not acceptable to key members of the Chinese military. Though cuts have been made, it’s a positive sign that the movie is at last going to see the inside of cinemas.
Meanwhile, Korea has another solid homegrown success on its hands with Steel Rain 2: Summit which grossed $7M in its debut session. The action drama from director Yang Woo-suk sees a group of leaders from South and North Korea and the U.S. abducted as they attempt to negotiate a peace settlement for the Korean peninsula.
And, speaking of Peninsula, the horror sequel has now cleared $25M in Korea, landing No. 2 this weekend. The two top movies fully dominated the market during the frame.
Elsewhere, Sony Pictures International Productions’ Padre No Hay Mas Que Uno 2 (Father There Is Only One 2) stepped things up at the Spanish box office with a terrific $2.6M across five days. This is the biggest opening of the year in the market while the film is playing on par with the 2019 original which was that year’s top local title at nearly $16M. Santiago Segura directs and stars in the comedy of a father rearing his five children, while also preparing for a new addition to the family and a visit from his mother-in-law.
And, in other studio news, WB’s Scoob! grossed an additional $1.3M on 2,247 screens from 13 international markets. That’s a 38% drop in holdover play from last session and lifts the cume to $10.3M.
PREVIOUS, SATURDAY: Since cinemas reopened in China’s low-risk areas on July 20, the market today had its biggest day yet. Box office was $5.74M (RMB 40M) overall for the day, according to Maoyan figures. That reps a 38% jump from Friday.
After leading last weekend and the midweeks, then dropping to No. 2 on Friday, Universal’s Dolittle piped back up on Saturday with another $1.45M (+111% over Friday). The cume through today is $10.85M. Local title The Enigma Of Arrival dropped to No. 2 on Saturday and has grossed $2.4M so far.
The situation is expected to change on Sunday with Warner Bros’ reissue of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. The film, which could act as a taster for Tenet’s as-yet undetermined China release, also has an IMAX component and currently looks like it will will be the top title tomorrow.
As we have previously noted, that Interstellar has a runtime of 169 minutes means the initial local restrictions on films over two hours in the current climate is easing. However, we also understand that intermissions are being mandated for such lengthy movies in certain areas. It is unclear if the aim is to re-sanitize auditoria during the breaks, but even that process would prolong the time audiences are in the cinemas and perhaps circulating while they wait.
More on China and other international box office markets to come on Sunday…
PREVIOUS, FRIDAY: China’s second Friday with cinemas back to business in low-risk areas rang up another $4M at local turnstiles, a 39% increase versus the same day last week. About 60% of movie theaters are now operating, with capacity limits and social distancing still in place, so all numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt, though they are encouraging.
This is certainly not China as we once knew it, but there are signs of appetite for new local and Hollywood releases. It has been good to see relatively flat midweek days after last Sunday’s high-water mark of $5M+. From last Friday to this Friday (inclusive), post-coronavirus box office in the Middle Kingdom is at about $27M. That does not include the toe-in-the-water reopened days in the market (July 20-23), but tacking those on, the overall number rises to about $30M.
Universal’s Dolittle, which held the No. 1 spot since debuting last Friday, saw good midweek play and today slotted into 2nd place with a running cume of $9.4M. It has a Douban score of 5.7 and a Maoyan note of 8.2 and should hit $10M this weekend. That would make China the No. 3 offshore market on the expensive Robert Downey Jr-starrer, behind the UK and Korea.
Middle Kingdom play so far this session is led by new local title The Enigma Of Arrival which was originally scheduled to bow over the Valentine’s Day frame but was sidelined by COVID. The Song Wen-directed suspense drama kicked off with about $1.35M on Friday. While it’s carrying just a 5 on Douban, it’s got a better 7.5 on Maoyan and its lead today points to the hunger for new, and local, titles. The story sees a group of college friends reunite for the first time since the disappearance of a girl they all secretly pined after.
Also new in China is another local movie, the animated Mr Miao (Miao Xian Sheng), a tale of good and evil, which came in at No. 3 with about $416K through today.
New from the studios, Paramount’s Sonic The Hedgehog was slower off the starting block on Friday with $315K from about 5,560 locations, and despite a better Douban score than Dolittle (6.1 v 5.7). Business could pick up over the weekend, but given this film skews younger there’s perhaps concern on the part of families about trotting the tots out just yet. Searchlight’s Oscar winner Jojo Rabbit was another new Hollywood title, debuting with about $165K today — and a strong 8.4 on Douban as well as what we understand was the highest per screen of the openers. Warner Bros will unspool a reissue of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar with an IMAX component in China on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Korea is still going strong, welcoming new local action drama Steel Rain 2: Summit which has grossed just shy of $3.3M since opening on Wednesday. It elbowed runaway Train To Busan sequel Peninsula to the No. 2 spot on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Peninsula has a Korea cume of $23.5M so far according to Kobiz. After reaching $35.8M across 7 markets (including Korea) last weekend, the movie is primed to hit $40M before it releases domestically via Well Go on August 7. It is already the top grossing movie of 2020 in Singapore.
Elsewhere this weekend, Russell Crowe-starrer Unhinged opens in the UK via Altitude. Russia, which last weekend had only about 6% of its theaters open, is due to get a boost as the Karo Cinemas circuit is reopening all of its Moscow locations starting tomorrow. All remaining Karo cinemas throughout St. Petersburg and the regions will reopen between August 16 and September 1. The exhibitor says it is showing all new films, including local titles Happy End, Widow and Cosmobol (local pics accounted for 22% of overall box office in 2019). Non-Russian upcoming new releases include Unhinged, Peninsula, Ava, My Spy and Escape From Pretoria.
And, finally, some good news out of Spain: Cinemas in Barcelona have been allowed to reopen after being ordered shut mid-month owing to new clusters of the virus. And that’s just in time for what’s shaping up to be a local smash: Padre No Hay Más Que Uno 2 (Father There Is Only One 2) taking 70% market share at open.
We’ll update more from the international box office throughout the weekend.