Aquaman makes waves in China

Actor Jason Momoa, who stars in Aquaman, attended the film's world premiere in London last month.
Actor Jason Momoa, who stars in Aquaman, attended the film's world premiere in London last month.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LOS ANGELES • Warner's decision to roll out superhero movie Aquaman first in China - before the United States - has paid off.

Over the weekend, it collected US$94 million (S$129 million).

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

Warner and other Hollywood companies cannot distribute their own movies in China. They must rely on 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 (2018), directed by Dante Lam who is 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 release.

Aquaman will arrive in 40 more countries this week, with a Thursday launch in Singapore. Audiences in North America will have the chance to see it from 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 (2015) - 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 in China. The romantic comedy's release there came three months after its rollout elsewhere in the world.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2018, with the headline 'Aquaman makes waves in China'. Print Edition | Subscribe