Robert Downey Jr. in ‘Dolittle’ and Vin Diesel in ‘Bloodshot’
Universal and Sony
Once again, we have actual box office figures to discuss, even if it’s not the second weekend for Tenet and the opening for Walt Disney
’s Jungle Cruise. China’s theaters have begun opening up over the last week, with two Hollywood newbies (Dolittle and Bloodshot) leading the charge. And the Robert Downey Jr. talking animal fantasy was technically first place over its first three days, earning $5.08 million in its opening weekend, including $535,000 in IMAX
. That’s obviously not a blow-out number, especially for a film that earned just $225 million worldwide (including $70 million) on a $175 million budget.
However, before everything closed down, it was tracking for around $15 million total in China, so if it gets anywhere close to that it’ll imply that the Chinese marketplace is getting closer to “business as usual.” That said, legs in China for Hollywood biggies are usually 2-2.25x the opening weekend, and even 3x would be $9 million. At the very least, Dolittle gets a certain infamy as the answer to a movie trivia question as the first new Hollywood movie to play in China after the coronavirus closures.
Second place in China went to Vin Diesel’s Bloodshot, as the Sony sci-fi actioner earned $2.73 million in its opening weekend, including $210,000 in IMAX. The $42 million, PG-13 Valiant comic book adaptation was one of the newbies in mid-March just before everything closed in North America. It was tracking for $10 million and ended up with $9.3 million, so it wasn’t dinged too badly due to coronavirus concerns. At best, it would have topped out at $25 million domestic.
There was hope that the film would have saved some face in China, due to the popularity of both the Fast & Furious series ($392 million for Furious 7 in 2015, $392 million for Fate of the Furious in 2017 and $200 million for the Dwayne Johnson/Jason Statham spin-off Hobbs &Shaw in 2019) and blow-out success of xXx: Return of Xander Cage ($159 million in China alone out of $385 million in 2017). Just because audiences flock to a movie star in their marquee role/franchise, it doesn’t mean they’ll show for any old star vehicle.
That is the defining problem with movie stardom in general. Just because they flocked to American Sniper doesn’t mean they’ll show up for Aloha. The Last Witch Hunter earned just $27 million in 2015, even after Furious 7 earned a jaw-dropping $391 million months earlier. Bloodshot had earned $29 million worldwide prior to the shutdowns, and it’s unlikely (but not impossible) that China’s take will make much of a difference.
This applies to the next months’ worth of newbies (1917, Sonic the Hedgehog and Bad Boys for Life) too, but the 30% capacity, 50% of showtimes and no concessions regulations means we can’t pronounce success or victory right on opening weekend. We don’t yet know if these flicks are intended to actually score in China or are just sacrificial lambs to get Chinese audiences acclimated to theaters again before the Chinese biggies (Detective Chinatown 3, The Rescue, etc.) get their crack at glory.
There were 369 IMAX auditoriums open for business in China this weekend, around 40% of the total, with another 300 in the next few weeks. The majority are expected to be up and running by mid-August, in time for Ford v Ferrari and 1917 opening on August 7 and Bad Boys For Life (along with a reissue of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) on August 14. The next IMAX release in China is August 2 when Chris Nolan’s Interstellar gets a reissue. It would appear that the “under two hours” restriction was, like parlay in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, less of a strict code and more of a guideline.
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