China’s impressive box office resurgence faced a momentary setback over the weekend, with the film industry experiencing its quietest attendance levels since January. However, experts suggest that next week’s release of blockbuster holiday films will be the litmus test to determine whether this recent slump is merely a timing-related aberration.
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Data provided by the renowned consultancy firm Artisan Gateway revealed that the nationwide box office revenue amounted to a mere $25 million, a surprising figure considering China’s population of 1.3 billion people and an extensive network of approximately 100,000 commercial cinema screens. This dismal performance marks the second-lowest box office weekend of 2023, with the only exception being the second week of January when China’s post-COVID recovery was still in its nascent stages, and major film releases were targeting the late-January Chinese New Year festivities.
Since that time, China’s box office had been on an upward trajectory. The Chinese New Year period alone contributed a staggering $1 billion to cinema revenues, while Hollywood films made a successful comeback in substantial numbers. The summer season was further buoyed by a string of popular and successful Chinese-made movies, signaling the film industry’s resilience in the face of an increasingly challenging macroeconomic landscape marred by a property crisis, shifting international trade dynamics, and relatively modest stimulus measures from the central government.
Artisan Gateway’s data paints a promising picture for the Chinese film industry, with the year-to-date box office total standing at $6.19 billion. This figure represents a remarkable 75% increase compared to the lackluster box office performance witnessed in 2022, and it’s just 5% shy of the pre-pandemic levels observed in 2019.
The upcoming National Day – Golden Week holiday season is poised to provide valuable insights into whether the film industry will remain resilient amid the economic turbulence. This week, a total of nine Chinese-produced titles are expected to hit the screens on Thursday (Sept. 28) and Friday (Sept. 29), accompanied by a couple of imported animation titles.
Among the highly anticipated releases are the romantic comedy “The Ex-Files 4,” the sports comedy “Lose to Win,” and animation titles “I Am Nezha 2” and “Kung Fu Tiger.” Additionally, acclaimed director Zhang Yimou’s second film of the year, the crime action drama “Under the Light,” is expected to draw considerable attention from moviegoers.
Despite the recent weekend slump, “Dust to Dust” managed to bounce back to the top spot in its third week of release, overshadowing the second weekend performance of “Expendables 4.” “Dust to Dust” raked in an impressive $7.6 million (RMB54.5 million), pushing its cumulative earnings to $57.1 million (RMB411 million). Meanwhile, “Expendables 4” collected $4.3 million, bringing its cumulative total to $19.4 million.
Other notable weekend performances included the summer hit “No More Bets,” which earned $2.7 million, boasting a cumulative total of $532 million since its release on Aug. 8. The surprise hit “Oppenheimer” secured $2.5 million, contributing to a cumulative total of $58.1 million in China. Lastly, “Creation of the Gods 1” added $1.7 million to its coffers, accumulating a total of $364 million since its release on July 20.
As China’s film industry navigates the uncertainties of the global economic landscape, the forthcoming holiday season will provide valuable insights into its resilience and potential for continued growth.