Film News Lists

The Saved-By-China Club: Hollywood Movies Which Grossed More in China than in the US/Canada

The center of the movie universe is shifting. Before long, China’s box office receipts will surpass the United States. It already happened for the first time on a month-by-month basis earlier this year when China’s combined box office take for the month of February was $10 million higher than that of the United States. Even more impressive, China managed that with mostly home grown product since no Hollywood movie was in the top 5 grossing films of the month.  The country is going to keep having good months like that. At its current rate of growth, we’ll soon reach a point where China sells more movie tickets year round than the United States and Canada combined.

So, the list of movies which gross more in China than domestically (i.e., in the U.S./Canada) is going to keep growing. The latest example is Terminator: Genisys, which is off to an 8-day start of $82.8 million in China, thus threatening to become the first film in history to reach $100 million in China without having also reached that point domestically. That’s a pretty significant milestone, but this “bigger in China than back at home” trend is still relatively new. Beyond that, China’s box office totals can often be misleading since Hollywood studios generally only get around a 25% cut of the country’s ticket sales. As such, it is always preferable for a Hollywood movie do better in the US/Canada than anywhere else because that’s where the studios get the biggest percentage of ticket sales, upwards of 60% in some special cases.  There’s also the increasingly tricky problem of currency exchange rates.

Still, with China’s film market forever booming more and more Hollywood movies are thought to have been saved by China, but that’s not always true, at least not if you define “saved” as “helped the studio turn a profit.” However, if the boost is big enough it can lead to a sequel being greenlit, such as Pacific Rim 2 and the ever-looming chance of a Terminator: Genisys sequel. Plus, as of late some movies were doing so well domestically they didn’t really need saving.

Here’s the overall list:

1) Furious 7


  • Production Budget: $190m
  • China: $390m
  • US/Canada: $351m
  • Worldwide: $1.51 billion

That set the record for highest-grossing film in China’s history.

2) Seventh Sonseventh_son_a_l

  • Production Budget: $95m
  • China: $27m
  • US/Canada: $17m
  • Worldwide: $110m

Don’t really think we can call this one “saved.”  China’s contribution to the worldwide box office simply made the overall financial failure slightly less embarrassing.

3) Transformers: Age of ExtinctionTransformers_Age_of_Extinction_42240

  • Budget: $210m
  • China: $320m
  • US/Canada: $245m
  • Worldwide: $1.1 billion

That’s a franchise low for domestic gross but franchise high in China.

4) Expendables 3expendables 3

  • Budget: $90m
  • China: $72m
  • US/Canada: $39m
  • Worldwide: $206m

The producers blamed the poor domestic performance on piracy, but that didn’t seem to have much of an effect in China.

5) Need for Speedposter-of-need-for-speed-movie

  • Budget: $66m
  • China: $66m
  • US/Canada: $43m
  • Worldwide: $203m

Based upon China’s love of the Fast & Furious franchise, it’s not really surprising to see them also embrace a fellow car-chase/race movie like Need for Speed.

6) Escape PlanEscape-Plan1

  • Budget: $50m
  • China: $40m
  • US/Canada: $25m
  • Worldwide: $137m

China still loves Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, more so than we clearly do considering that Escape Plan, Expendables 3 and (eventually) Terminator: Genisys belong on this list.

7) Brick Mansionsbrick-mansions-movie-02-why-you-should-be-pumped-for-brick-mansions

  • Budget: $28m
  • China: $29m
  • US/Canada: $20m
  • Worldwide: $68m

This was like China’s Fast & Furious appetizer, released a year before Furious 7 and advertised as one of Paul Walker’s final movies.

8) Pacific Rim05162013PacificRim-jpg_200250

  • Budget: $190m
  • China: $111m
  • US/Canada: $101m
  • Worldwide: $411m

At the risk of stating the obvious, without China Pacific Rim 2 would not be happening right now.

9) Cloud AtlasCloud-Atlas-2

  • Budget: $102m
  • China: $21.7m
  • US/Canada: $21.1m
  • Worldwide: $130m

Again, don’t think we can really call this a movie which China “saved,” not after you look at the budget and worldwide gross.  Surely, the Wachowskis would rebound with their next movie…


10) Jupiter AscendingJupiter Ascending

  • Budget: $176m
  • China: $44m
  • US/Canada: $47m
  • Worldwide: $183m

Ah, nevermind.  No rebound for the Wachowskis.

11) RoboCopRoboCop+remake

  • Budget: $100m
  • China: $50m
  • US/Canada: $58m
  • Worldwide: $242m

Thanks to its international performance, there was brief talk of a potential RoboCop 2, but at last check that’s not going to happen.

Not Quite Yet

12) Terminator: GenisysTerminator Genisys Smile

  • Budget: $155m
  • China: $82m
  • US/Canada: $89m
  • Worldwide: $409m

Bonus: Not So Much in China, But Oddly Huge in South Korea…

13) Begin AgainBegin Again

  • Budget: $8m
  • South Korea: $25m
  • US/Canada: $16m
  • Worldwide: $63m

Not surprisingly, this list indicates China embraces visual feasts which transcend language barriers, particularly if those films shoehorn in some Asian characters or settings.  Additionally, some of the older actors we’ve turned on are still welcomed in China.

Source: BoxOfficeMojo


  1. This is a really interesting trend. I’ve been told that I am a terrible judge of bad acting and thus I wonder if the language barrier helps people ignore bad acting. However, awesome special effects is language independent but awful stories and direction transcend that.

    I’m wondering if they will tone down the Japanese content (eg actors, kaiju ) considering the historical animosity between China and Japan (and more recent faux pas). Will there be a Pacific Rim 3 with Godzilla?

    1. That is a good follow-up question – even if special effects are language independent, does that mean foreign audiences won’t notice bad acting or awful stories? It seems more like those type of movies will be sampled more by foreign audiences than at home, but often times they drop pretty fast. Genisys had the fourth biggest opening day in China, but it has been sinking pretty fast ever since. Making nearly $30 million in your first day but just over $50 million across the next 7 days has to be pretty telling in Paramount’s stated position that it needs to not see big box office totals but solid holds to actually gauge if people like the movie. At the very least, the Furious 7 and Transformer’s of the world which had similarly huge opening days didn’t decline like that.

      As for Pacific Rim 3/Godzilla, Legendary does own both franchises, and Del Toro would love for a crossover to happen. At one point, Godzilla was positioned to eventually crossover with Legendary’s new King Kong being set up in the Skull Island prequel. However, I don’t know that if that’s still in the cards, and now all the rumors centered around maybe putting Godzilla with Pacific Rim instead. Here’s what Del Toro said about it:

      “Hypothetically, I would love the fuck out of it. I would love to see a jaeger and Godzilla duke it out. That would be too much for the human brain.”

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