China Box Office: ‘Barbie’ Opens in Fifth Place

Norman Ray

Global Courant

While “Barbie” was romping to box office records in North America and scoring strongly in many international territories, the pink phenomenon could muster only fifth place in China, the world’s second largest movie market, on its opening weekend.

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“Barbie” managed $8.2 million in its opening three days, according to data from consultancy firm Artisan Gateway.

Local box office sources show the film trapped in that position on all three days of the weekend session, as the locally-produced titles jostled for leadership and swapped positions. Somewhat encouragingly, the daily score for “Barbie” had increased by Sunday as it was given more screening sessions by Chinese exhibitors.

“Barbie” joins a growing list of Hollywood films that have disappointed at the mainland Chinese box office this year. Others include “The Little Mermaid,” “Indiana Jones” and “Fast X.”

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Hollywood titles are facing fewer structural impediments in China (import and certification delays) than they did in recent years. But audiences are turning out in smaller numbers for western franchises and this year have most strongly rewarded Chinese and Japanese movies instead. That has helped the Chinese box office recover to within 8% of pre-pandemic 2019.

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The mainland Chinese box office over the latest weekend was headed by “Creation of the Gods I: Kingdom of Storms” (the first part of the “Fengshen Trilogy”), which grossed $42.1 million. according to data from consultancy firm Artisan Gateway. Over four days it earned $53.7 million.

Imax reports that “Creation of the Gods I” earned $8.6 million on its screens in China over four days. That represented more than 16% of the film’s nationwide total.

Despite its top ranking, “Creation of the Gods I” had a wobbly start. It opened on Thursday, a day ahead of most new releases in China, placed second on its Friday and saw its screen count reduced on subsequent days. Its total is likely to be a disappointment considering its ambitions.

Directed by Wuershan “(Painted Skin,” “Mojin: The Lost Legend”) the “Fengshen Trilogy” set out to be a mega scale blending of history, folklore and mythology from more than 3,000 years ago, that would be China’s answer to both “Lord of the Rings” and “Iron Man.” It managed to retain the services of Barrie Osborne (“Lord of the Rings”) as production consultant and Bill Kong (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) as executive producer and, at one stage, aimed for a budget of over $400 million for the three pictures.

Over the latest weekend box office, it was closely followed by “Chang An” (aka “Chang An 30,000 Miles”), a Chinese animation which is in its third weekend of release and which grossed $40.6 million. After 16 days on release, “Chang An” has already accumulated $168 million, making it one of the top-scoring Chinese animation titles of all time.

Third place belonged to “Wonder Family” (aka “Advancing of ZQ”), a live-action fantasy about a man who discovers a financial artifact and the enemies that want it for themselves. It scored $31.3 million in its opening three days. The film is the latest creation from Mahua FunAge, a comedy troupe that has become a consistent producer of hit comedy films, including the previous “Moon Man.”

“Never Say Never,” written and directed by actor Wang Baoqiang (“Lost in Thailand,” “Detective Chinatown”), slipped to fourth place, with a still handy $20.6 million over three days. Its cumulative now stands at $261 million after 18 days on release.

The weekend aggregate box office was a healthy $168 million, which propelled the year-to-date total to $4.63 billion. Artisan Gateway calculates that as being some 70% ahead of the same point last year.

China Box Office: ‘Barbie’ Opens in Fifth Place

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