China Box Office Weekend Report: 'Terminator: Genisys' Holds Top Spot in Face of Rampant Market Manipulation

on August 31, 2015

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Jonathan Papish @ChinaBoxOffice

Terminator: Genisys was able retain the weekend box office crowd despite a heavy challenge from newcomer The Hundred Regiments Offensive (百团大战) which appears to have benefited from market manipulation.

Terminator: Genisys earned $23.5 million in its first full weekend of release bringing the 8-day total to $82.5 million. Genisys held onto ~140,000 showtimes occupying ~29% of China's screens. "Golden time" screenings -- those between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm -- jumped throughout the week indicating the film's audience is skewing towards a working-aged demographic. Data from China's EntGroup also show audiences in third and fourth tier cities -- those with less-refined moviegoing habits and tastes -- accounting for a larger portion of Genisys' demographic than white-collar workers in the international cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. Nonetheless, the sci-fi film has found a sizable audience in the Middle Kingdom and will surpass North America's $89 million total either Tuesday or Wednesday, one of only a handful of films to earn more in China than Stateside and arguably the most high-profile.

In second place, The Hundred Regiments Offensive earned an impressive $21.8 million this weekend including three days of preview screenings. In addition, the film made 30% of the total weekend box office on just 10% of China's screens. However, there's more to that number than meets the eye. To commemorate China's 70th anniversary of the Allied victory over Japan in World War II, the government is throwing a huge military parade in Beijing and giving its citizens a 3-day Victory Day Holiday next week. The release of Hundred Regiments, a state-sponsored war epic that retells a key battle between CCP and Japanese forces, is intended to coincide with the celebrations.

On Monday, netizens leaked a SARFT (State Administration of Radio, Film, and TV) directive ordering movie theater chains to use "any means necessary" to bring in a fixed amount of box office revenue for Hundred Regiments in order to "extend societal influence" and build "feelings of patriotism and national sentiment." To motivate them to complete their "mission", theater chains can keep 100% of the box office revenue instead of giving the usual 43% to the distribution company. The directive runs through September 4 when normal revenue sharing will return.

Newcomer The Dead End (烈日灼心) came in third with $15.2 million and has earned $19.8 million since opening on Thursday. The award-winning crime drama from Cao Baoping is riding high ratings from social media platforms and strong word of mouth, and will look to hold well this week. 

Monster Hunt (捉妖记), the highest-grossing Chinese film of all-time ($373.4M) and second highest-grossing film of all-time to Furious 7 ($390M), fell just 25% grossing $5.0 million from only ~20,000 showings. However, upon closer inspection those numbers don't add up either. Images began to circulate on social media late Saturday night showing Broadway Cinema, the theater circuit owned by Monster Hunt's distribution company Edko, selling out multiple late-night Monster Hunt screenings. Even stranger, screenings were scheduled just 15 minutes apart in the same exact movie hall. Edko issued a statement later in the weekend claiming the sold-out shows were legitimate and just part of a public charity screening drive, but that it had failed to supervise the handling of the activity. If Monster Hunt ends up #1 in the box office record books, it might need an asterisk.

Rounding out the top five was Hou Hsiao-hsien's The Assassin (刺客聂隐娘) which won the Best Director Award at this year's Cannes. The arthouse film took in $6.1 million from ~52,000 showings, mostly from first-tier cities. 

The rest of this weekend's top ten can be found below with data from China's EntGroup.

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Tags: Monkey King: Hero is Back, Monster Hunt, The Hundred Regiments Offensive, China Box Office, Terminator: Genisys

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