It’s soon to be February again at the Chinese box office, where older pre-pandemic Hollywood titles are preparing to hit local theaters amidst a relative dearth in new foreign content.
The psychological horror film “The Invisible Man,” which debuted more than eight months ago Stateside on Feb. 28, is now set to screen in the mainland on Dec. 4. Meanwhile, 20th Century Studios’ “Call of the Wild,” which first hit U.S cinemas Feb. 21, and “The Aeronauts,” not-so-fresh off its early December 2019 release, are prepared to hit Chinese theaters this Friday, Nov. 13.
Both of the latter two titles had curtailed theatrical runs in the U.S. and became box office flops, and so will have their fingers crossed for strong China returns to bolster their bottom line.
“The Invisible Man,” produced by Blumhouse, was already extremely profitable without China in the mix, having earned $64.9 million in North America and $130.5 million worldwide on a reported budget of just $7 million. So far, its most successful overseas territory has been the U.K., with $8.83 million in sales. Although it has yet to hit China, it debuted in Hong Kong a day before the U.S on Feb. 27 and earned $713,000 in the territory.
Written and directed by Leigh Whannell, who co-created the “Saw” franchise, and starring Elisabeth Moss, “The Invisible Man” is a revamp of a 1933 Claude Rains film of the same name, both based on H.G. Wells’ novel.
“Call of the Wild” is currently millions of dollars in the red. It ran for just 28 days in theaters in North America, grossing $62 million there and just $45 million internationally as the pandemic ramped up around the world and critics panned its use of expensive CGI effects. With a reported budget of $125 million, the film needed to earn between an estimated $250 and $275 million to break even, sources close to the production previously told Variety.
China sales could help close what likely remains a more than $140 million gap. However, although Chinese audiences have warmed in recent years to animal stories, they haven’t come out to older Hollywood titles in droves due to rampant online piracy.
“The Aeronauts,” a period drama starring Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, will also be trying its luck at prying open Chinese pocketbooks. Chinese rights to the film, which screened in the country last December at the Hainan Intl. Film Festival, are held by local independent distributor Infotainment China.
Amazon initially planned a high-profile theatrical release for last fall, but changed plans to put the film in just around 100 theaters Dec. 6 and then release on streaming two weeks later, upending its previous practice of releasing films in cinemas almost three months before putting them out online. It has so far grossed just $3.8 million abroad on a reported budget of $40 million.
The Neil Marshall-directed “Hellboy” reboot, another big 2019 box office flop, hit Chinese cinemas Monday and has so far grossed $3.5 million of what the Maoyan industry tracker currently predicts will be a $13 million run.