Box Office Lists

Box Office: When a Movie Makes More In China Than In The US Do We Even Notice Anymore?

OMG, you guys, xXx: Return of Xander Cage just opened to a massive $61.9 million in China, which is the biggest opening for a Hollywood movie in China this year as well as a far more impressive total than the $42m Xander has made in its first 24 days in the US and Canada. What does this mean for the future of cinema?

Not a damn thing, that’s what. It’s simply the latest in an increasingly long line of movies to flourish in the East after floundering in the West, to the point that we seem to barely even notice it anymore:

Tell us in 2015 that Furious 7, already a huge hit with $353m in the US and Canada, made a record $390m in China, and we’ll act with the appropriate surprise and crank out think piece after think piece which all essentially amount to, “What happens to Hollywood movies when they all have to be language-neutral spectacles to play in China? And what happens when China inevitably gets sick of them, particularly as its own film industry continues to grow?”

Tell us in 2017 that a movie (Xander Cage) starring one of the guys from Furious 7 (Vin Diesel), co-starring two popular Chinese actors (Donnie Yen, Kris Wu) and produced by a studio (Paramount) already deeply in bed with China (they have a $1 billion financing deal with the Shanghai Film Group and Huahua Media) is a bigger hit over there than here then we’ll ask why exactly we should care. Movies suck. TV rules. Drop the mic.

China and the rest of the world can have, for example, The Power Rangers Movie. I’m sure Netflix will have something awesome to watch that weekend.

However, this comes at an interesting time for US-China relations. President Trump recently capitulated to China’s demands that he walk back his recent rhetoric challenging the “One China Policy,” and earlier today China publicly blamed the US and Japan for North Korea’s banned ballistic missile launch over the weekend. If North Korea is to ultimately be kept in check the world will likely need China’s co-operation considering how dependent the former’s economy is on the latter, yet there remains the possibility the Trump Administration will pursue many of the things candidate Trump promised on the campaign trail, such as labeling the Middle Kingdom a currency manipulator.

Hollywood is watching all of this as well as every other part of life of under Trump through its typically liberal lens, rallying the resistance to Trump’s various policies, but from an economic standpoint many of the Hollywood film studios need relations with China to remain cordial.

It’s simple: You go where the audiences is, and there are now more movie theaters in China than there are in the US, the first time any country has surpassed us in that category. However, the film studios still only get a 25% cut of Chinese ticket sales for their movies, and have to comply with local censorship laws (no ghosts, nothing that could upset the local character and morale in the country, etc.) and compete to be one of the 34 foreign films allowed into the country per year.

Hollywood needs relations with China to remain stable enough to be able to renegotiate, particularly at a time when China’s negotiating power in this arena is ever-so-slightly damaged after ticket sales essentially flat lined last year after a near decade of constant double-digit growth. However, if the federal government pushes China they can push back at us any number of economic ways, including in our film industry.

It is likely no coincidence then that on the same day the Trump Administration made nice with China the country’s state-backed newspaper The Global Times predicted the foreign film quota will jump from 34 to 46 and the profit sharing will move from 25% for the studios to something closer to the 40% they currently enjoy in most other foreign territories. These jumps will occur after US and China film industry representatives meet later this month, and if The Global Times’ predictions prove to be correct then we could soon see even more movies making more over there than here as well as more co-productions (like The Great Wall) and Chinese movies starring Hollywood actors (like Johnny Knoxville in Skiptrace). If all goes according to plan for Hollywood, the days of a huge Chinese opening for xXx: Return of Xander Cage being considered even remotely newsworthy could be numbered because it will become so commonplace, even more so than it already is.

A Partial Listing of the “Bigger in China” Club


1. Warcraft

China – $190m

US/Canada – $47m

Difference: $143m


2. Transformers: Age of Extinction

China – $320m

US/Canada – $245m

Difference: $75m


3. Furious 7

China – $390m

US/Canada – $353m

Difference: $37m


4. Expendables 3

China – $72m

US/Canada – $39m

Difference: $33m


5. Now You See Me 2

China – $97m

US/Canada – $65m

Difference: $32m


6. Mechanic: Resurrection

China – $49m

US/Canada – $21m

Difference: $28m


7. Terminator: Genisys

China – $113m

US/Canada – $89m

Difference: $24m


8. Need for Speed

China – $66m

US/Canada – $43m

Difference: $23m


9. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

China – $23.7m

US/Canada – $1.7m

Difference: $22m


10. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

China – $61.9m (and growing)

US/Canada – $42m

Difference: $19.9m


11. Escape Plan

China – $40m

US/Canada – $25m

Difference: $15m 


12. Kung Fu Panda 3

China – $154m

US/Canada – $143m

Difference: $11m


13. Pacific Rim

China – $111m

US/Canada – $101m

Difference: $10m


14. Seventh Son

China – $27m

US/Canada – $17m

Difference: $10m


15. Brick Mansions

China – $29m

US/Canada – $20m

Difference: $9m


16. The Walk

China – $13.7m

US/Canada – $10.1m

Difference: $3.6m


17. Ice Age: Collision Course

China – $66m

US/Canada – $64m

Difference: $2m


18. Criminal

China – $15.7m

US/Canada – $14.7m

Difference: $1m


19. Cloud Atlas

China – $21.7m

US/Canada – $21.1m

Difference: $0.6m


20. The Last Witch Hunter

China – $27.4m

US/Canada – $27.3m

Difference: $0.1m


21. The Great Wall

China – $170.4m

US/Canada – TBD

Source: THR , BoxOfficeMojo


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