• Box Office

China Box Office March 26, 2023

The two highest-grossing films of 2023 are Chinese. Full River Red, the Zhang Yimou-directed historical movie earned $673 million this year, followed by The Wandering Earth 2, the sci-fi action thriller directed by Frant Gwo with $600 million in receipts, both over 64 days.

Both are still in release; the lion’s share has come from just one territory: China. The fifth, eighth and ninth on the international list are also Chinese films – Boonie Bears: Guardian Code ($219 million); Hidden Blade ($137 million); and Deep Sea ($134 million), respectively.

Hollywood releases are either received tepidly or are tanking in China. The latest movies to open there, Shazam! Fury of the Gods and M3GAN, have barely earned $6 million and $3 million, respectively, over the past nine days.

The Tom Hanks film, A Man Called Otto, barely registered on its opening weekend, ending at No. 16 on the charts with a dismal $100,000. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania have already dropped out of the top 20 for the past two weeks.

So while more Hollywood movies are being approved for release by the Chinese censors, the glory days for studios of adding millions to a hit or bailing out a flop seem to be over as local audiences are only flocking to local fare.

While piracy or late approval that doesn’t afford adequate marketing are reasonable assumptions, the overwhelming evidence points to a lack of interest in Hollywood movies. Even Avatar 2 didn’t make Avatar 1-type grosses (Avatar 2 was released in 2022).

The performances of two upcoming films, the rerelease of Titanic on April 3 and the new release Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 on May 5, will be closely watched to see whether Chinese audiences are over Hollywood.

Here are the top ten films for the weekend of March 24-26, 2023.

At No. 1 is the 2022 Suzume (Suzume no Tojimari), a Japanese animated fantasy film about a young girl who helps a mysterious man avert disasters all over Japan. The film is written and directed by Makoto Shinkai and grossed $50.66 million in its three-day run.

The comedy Post Truth fell to No. 2 and has earned $74.31 million in 17 days, with $12.76 million over the weekend. In the film, a former thug, now a cemetery salesman, tries to clear the name of a woman he doesn’t know after ugly internet rumors follow her death. It is directed by Da Peng and stars Dong Chengpeng and Li Xueqin.

In previews last week, The Best Is Yet to Come rose to No. 3 from ninth place, grossing $5.7 million in its run. The film is based on a true story and is about an intern journalist who pursues an investigation into forged health certificates after the SARS crisis in 2003 and deals with the juxtaposition of politics and prejudice.

The Best Is Yet to Come is directed by Wang Jin and was made in 2020, receiving a delayed release in China after showing at the 2020 Venice Film Festival.

Ending the weekend at No. 4 (with fifth place on Friday and Saturday) with $2.47 million over the weekend is the new release, Manifesto, a biopic directed by Yong Hou about Chen Wangdou who translated the Communist Manifesto into Chinese from Japanese and English versions, influencing the political path of China. It stars Liu Ye as Chen.

Ending the weekend at No. 5 (with fourth place on Friday and Saturday) is the murder mystery Revival, an adaptation of the book “The Murder in Kairotei” by Keigo Higashino.  It grossed $27.49 million over 16 days with $2.27 million over the weekend. The film stars Ren Su Xi, Liu Min Tao, and Hu Ke, and is directed by Mukuan Lai.

The animated Boonie Bears: Guardian Code continues its strong run at No. 6 with $220.25 million over 64 days. The film has received distribution in multiple international territories, though not in the US as yet. It is the ninth film in the Boonie Bears franchise and the fifth highest-grossing this year.

To Be Continued, a Chinese comedy thriller, opened in previews this weekend, ending at No. 7 on Sunday and has earned $0.34 million so far. The film is about a blogger on a horror movie set and stars Fan Chengcheng and Jiang Long. It is directed by Ma Kai.

The Wandering Earth 2 comes in at No. 8 with $596.07 million over 64 days; A Guilty Conscience is in ninth place with $26.90 million over 31 days; and Shazam! Fury of the Gods rounds out the top ten with $5.90 million over ten days.