Aquaman makes big splash in China before opening in US cinemas

Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa as the DC Comics superhero, will arrive in 40 more countries on Friday.
Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa as the DC Comics superhero, will arrive in 40 more countries on Friday.PHOTO: WARNER BROS. PICTURES (SINGAPORE)

LOS ANGELES (NYTimes) - The box office action over the weekend took place in China, where Aquaman collected US$94 million (S$129 million), validating a risky plan by Warner to release the movie there before anywhere else.

Hollywood has learnt a lot about Chinese moviegoers in recent years, but releasing films in the country - the world's No. 2 market behind the United States - remains a gamble.

Warner and other Hollywood companies cannot distribute their own movies in China.

They must rely on the state-owned China Film Group. Chinese censors often do not clear American films for distribution until the relative last minute, hindering marketing efforts.

And Chinese audiences have grown more selective, at times displaying a new preference for locally made movies like the extravagant Operation Red Sea, directed by Dante Lam, known as the Michael Bay of Asia.

Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa as the DC Comics superhero and directed by James Wan, could have flopped in China, which would have left a stink on the movie before its global rollout.

Aquaman will arrive in 40 more countries on Friday (Dec 14). Audiences in North America will have the chance to see it starting Dec 21.

Warner decided to pursue an early release date in China to avoid the country's traditional end-of-year blackout period for American movies. Opening first in China - where Wan has a following, having directed the smash hit Furious 7 - would also allow Warner to limit the impact of piracy, which is rampant in the country.

Piracy was a major factor in the recent failure of Warner's Crazy Rich Asians at the Chinese box office. The romantic comedy's release in China came three months after its rollout elsewhere in the world.