Great Wall revives China's box-office sales

A hitch for Hollywood in China's cinemas.VIDEO: REUTERS

LONDON/SHANGHAI • The Matt Damon film, The Great Wall, sold about 462.5 million yuan (S$96.2 million) in tickets in China during its opening weekend, a sign that pairing a bankable Hollywood actor with a celebrated local director and theme may be a recipe for reviving box-office growth.

The US$150-million English-language monster-action epic starring Damon and directed by Zhang Yimou reached blockbuster status on its first day, drawing about 123 million yuan last Friday, according to data from Ent Group, a film industry consultancy.

A film that reaches at least 100 million yuan in ticket sales is considered a hit in China, the world's largest film market after the United States.

The Great Wall is co-produced by Legendary East, a unit of billionaire Wang Jianlin's Wanda Group, which is spending billions of dollars to expand into movies, television and theme parks. A multi-year boom in ticket sales has brought global attention and deal-makers to China's movie market, only to see a dearth of hits this year undercut the rise in box-office receipts.

"The key to watch for the next few weeks is whether the film could receive good reviews to keep the momentum," said Mr Richard Huang, an analyst at Nomura Holdings.

Reactions to the film from moviegoers and critics has been mixed.

The movie scored 5.7 out of 10 on movie database IMDb.com's ranking system, compared with an average of 8.4 on the Chinese rating site Maoyan.

Debut weekend box-office results are especially important because cinemas in China adjust their schedules every few days to introduce new films that show promise or to extend the run of those that are still selling robustly. A movie that has a big opening weekend is usually assured wide distribution in theatres in the best time slots.

China Film Group, Le Vision Pictures and Universal Pictures also co-produced The Great Wall, scheduled for release in 30 other countries and regions between late December and April, according to IMDb.com.

China is on course to become the world's biggest box office next year, even though the shortage of big hits has led to the slowest annual sales growth since 2008.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2016, with the headline 'Great Wall revives China's box-office sales'. Print Edition | Subscribe