Box Office: China’s ‘Eight Hundred’ Nabs Biggest Opening Weekend Of 2020

The Eight Hundred
CMC Pictures
China’s blockbuster war epic The Eight Hundred grossed another $33 million on Sunday to bring its opening “weekend” (counting $30 million in Mon-Thurs previews) to a boffo $116.63 million.  That makes it the first movie to gross over $100 million in any territory since Sonic the Hedgehog ($146 million domestic) in mid-February. And since it’s only $33 million away from Sonic’s North American total, it’ll pass that flick’s territory-specific milestone today or tomorrow to be just the second-biggest single-territory grosser of the year behind Bad Boys For Life’s $204 million domestic cume.
Oh, and it earned 6.3% of that figure ($6.7 million) in IMAX despite IMAX accounting for 1% of available theaters. Yes, that’s technically the year’s biggest Fri-Sun opening weekend, with $83 million ($20 million on Friday, $29 million on Saturday and $33 million on Sunday) over the traditional weekend, besting the $62.5 million Fri-Sun debut of Bad Boys For Life (of a $73 million Fri-Mon launch) in North America back in mid-January.
If you want to count the $30 million-worth of previews, then, yeah, I guess The Eight Hundred scored the first $100 million-plus launch of the year, but either way it’s a milestone for 2020. And since it’s just above Sonic the Hedgehog’s $116 million global launch in February, The Eight Hundred has notched the year’s biggest global debut. Presuming it remotely legs out, and even a mere 2x “long weekend-to-final” multiplier gives it $232 million in China alone, it has a chance of being the biggest single-territory grosser of 2020.
Tenet is expected to earn around $115 million in China and it will possibly struggle to top $200 million domestic without California and New York (at least initially) in play. Mulan is heading to PVOD in America and elsewhere and at this point Great Wall/Kung Fu Panda 3-level grosses in China (around $155 million) could be a pipe dream. Save for other Chinese biggies (Detective Chinatown 3, The Rescue, etc.) yet to be released, only single-territory competition left are, being optimistic, Woman 1984, Black Widow, No Time to Die and Soul in North America if they open as planned on October 2, November 6 and (for both the James Bond film and the Pixar toon) November 20 respectively.
Word of mouth for Guan Hu’s $80 million, shot-entirely-on-IMAX Japanese-Sino action drama is pretty damn positive among paying moviegoers. Having seen the film, it’s pretty terrific. The 147-minute action drama, about 400 Chinese soldiers defending a key warehouse from invading Japanese forces, was supposed to open last summer but was pulled at the last minute allegedly due to political considerations. Nonetheless, the first new biggie is pulling in very big business even with capacity limitations (now at 50% max capacity) and related challenges.

If it plays like a conventional Hollywood movie (which it is not, but humor me), it’ll have already earned 46%-49% of its eventual total in China. That alone would give it around $235-$255 million in China. If it legs out even to 2.65x its full opening frame, and that it made more on Sunday than on Friday is encouraging, it’ll pass Sonic the Hedgehog’s $308 million global gross to be the second-biggest movie of the year behind Bad Boys for Life’s $428 million cume.
Considering the movie may well have earned $350-$450 million in China had it opened as planned last summer, it’ll be very interesting to see how close to that it gets to that in very different circumstances. Not only was this a brand-new movie from China to greet the reopened Chinese theaters, this was something they actually wanted to see. That’s a key distinction. That’s why The Eight Hundred (which opens domestically this Friday) made $116 million in its opening “weekend” while Russell Crowe’s Unhinged earned (pending estimates) around $4 million in its American theatrical debut.
Like Deliver Us From Evil and Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula in South Korea, audiences are coming back to theaters when there is specifically something new in theaters that they really wanted to see theatrically. The mere idea of a new movie hasn’t been an event for years, and that won’t change now with a pandemic still in play. But if there’s something folks were anticipating, well, if you release it, they will come. Yes, come what may, that’s promising news for Chris Nolan’s Tenet.
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