Sunday’s international box office reporting looks vastly different to what was expected coming into the weekend. A Friday gross that portended a high-teens launch for Monster Hunter in China was quickly thwarted when local authorities pulled the feature game adaptation from the country’s cinemas. This was the result of an online backlash over a short exchange in the film that has been perceived as racist by local audiences. We understand that Tencent, which is handling Chinese distribution and is an equity partner in the film, is waiting to hear from the film bureau over whether excising the offending scene could allow it back to screens.
China state media is not reporting on the issue, and ticketing platform Maoyan has removed Monster Hunter from the Friday chart even though the film did about $5.3M that day (including late Thursday sneaks).
The Middle Kingdom was expected to be Monster Hunter’s biggest play. Even if it did reappear in cinemas, much damage has already been done. But it’s notable that the scene in question was not censored during the rigorous vetting process that all films face. USC professor Stanley Rosen tells us this goes to show that “no censorship decision in China is final. Decisions can be overturned by higher level officials or public opinion.”
Elsewhere, Monster Hunter saw five markets debut via Sony with a combined $2.65M. Each came in No. 1 including Taiwan ($1.5M), Saudi Arabia ($550K), UAE ($305K) and Netherlands ($180K). The Paul WS Anderson-directed fantasy action pic is produced by Constantin, Impact Pictures, Tencent and Toho. Sony has worldwide rights outside of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, China and Japan and has a December 25 North American date lined up.
Monster Hunter’s troubles in China had a beneficial effect for DreamWorks Animation/Universal’s The Croods 2: A New Age which saw its screen count increase there on Saturday. This resulted in a 500% jump from Friday, and on Sunday, the caveman sequel hopped over local newcomer Soul Snatcher to land at No. 2 for the day. Overall, Croods 2 came in No. 3 for the Middle Kingdom session with an additional $12.2M (-36 versus last weekend’s launch) for a cume there of $36.6M. The original Croods did $63.3M in China, and this one has good scores and some runway ahead, meaning it could get close to that — it’s expected to at least break $50M locally.
In total, Croods 2 picked up $13.6M from 10 markets and has an offshore cume of $40.3M for $60.6M worldwide. New this session was Denmark with a No. 3 start of $351K at 83 locations (+17 on the original); it is the only studio title in the Top 10 there. Drops elsewhere were good. Still to come this month are Mexico, Spain, Russia and Australia.
IMAX accounted for $1M of the sequel’s global weekend, including $844K from 478 screens in China. The worldwide IMAX cume on the Joel Crawford-directed title is $4.1M.
In Japan, Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train is estimated to have added about $6M during the FSS session. That brings the local total to 28.8B yen ($277M) and leaves 2B yen between the cultural phenomenon and Japan’s highest-grossing film ever, Spirited Away (30.8B yen), which it should catch before month’s end. Last weekend, it sailed past Titanic to take the No. 2 spot on Japan’s all-time charts. It is already the No. 1 animated title of 2020 worldwide, and internationally, and remains at Nos. 5 and 3 in the overall worldwide and international rankings for the year — based on the Japan cume alone.
Demon Slayer a few weekends ago became IMAX’s biggest movie ever in Japan and has now reached a cume of $18M in the market (adding $655K this weekend for a mere 20% drop). The Toho/Aniplex/Ufotable juggernaut has a total $19.3M in IMAX when including Taiwan and Hong Kong (the latter market’s cinemas were closed again last week amid a coronavirus surge).
In other play, Universal/Blumhouse’s The Invisible Man appeared in China for the first time this weekend, nine months after its initial offshore rollout. It grossed $1.53M in the market where it too was able to increase screen count after Monster Hunter was forced to vacate. The overseas cume is $70.4M for $140.8M global.
Warner Bros’ Tenet, which last weekend topped 300M internationally, is in 45 offshore markets and now has an international cume of $302.1M for $359.8M worldwide. India finally got the Christopher Nolan thriller and bowed to $675K on 1,137 screens. This is the widest release post-lockdown in the country and amid 50% occupancy.
Also from WB, The Witches conjured another $1.5M in 36 overseas markets on 2,373 screens, a good 39% drop in holdovers. Japan debuted to $790K, the top U.S. title for the weekend. The international cume to date is now $18.9M.
DreamWorks Animation/Universal’s Trolls World Tour traveled to Brazil for the first time this frame, opening at No. 1 with $312K from 452 sites. Some states and cities in Brazil returned to the 40% capacity “yellow phase” that also sets final daily screenings at 7-8PM while others went back to the “orange phase” meaning cinemas are closed. This is Trolls’ final major release market and the international total is now $44.1M for $49.7M worldwide.
Melissa McCarthy-starrer Superintelligence added $501K from 10 markets for a strong 35% drop from opening weekend. This takes the international running cume to $1.6M. The UK will release this weekend and Australia goes on December 17.
Universal/Blumhouse’s Freaky picked up $357K from 30 markets in the fourth frame, lifting the overseas cume to $5.6M for $13.3M global. Australia leads offshore play at $1.2M. Further international release dates are set in Europe through January but remain subject to market conditions.
Focus’ crime drama Let Him Go added $216K in 10 markets (-38%) for a $931K overseas cume. Globally, the total is $9.96M.
Elsewhere, Korea was led again by local comedy/drama Best Friend, now with a $2.6M cume in a very sluggish market that’s still facing capacity restrictions.
Looking ahead, Germany’s and Italy’s cinemas will sit out the holidays, remaining closed until later in January. France opens on December 15 and the UK is slowly returning to business.
Next weekend includes the release of Doraemon The Movie: Nobita’s New Dinosaur in China and local pic Silver Skates in Russia.