China's most expensive film bombs, pulled from cinemas

(From far left) Actors Zhang Yishang, Leo Wu and director Zhang Peng at a promotional event for Asura.
(From left) Actors Zhang Yishang, Leo Wu and director Zhang Peng at a promotional event for Asura.PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI/BEIJING • A Chinese blockbuster hopeful, backed by Alibaba Pictures Group and with a reported budget of over US$100 million (S$136 million), has been abruptly pulled from cinemas in the country after sinking on its opening weekend at the box office.

The move highlights the challenges being faced by China as it looks to promote home-grown productions to rival imported blockbusters from Hollywood. The country has seen several big-budget films flop, though some lower-cost ones have done well.

The latest disappointment Asura had been billed as one of China's biggest-budget movies after the US$150 million United States-China co-production The Great Wall. That 2016 movie, starring Matt Damon, also failed to impress at the box office.

Asura, a fantasy epic based on Tibetan mythology, was yanked from cinemas on Sunday night by producers after it brought in a meagre 49.46 million yuan (S$10 million) and earned a lowly rating of 3.1 on the movie review site Douban.

The movie boasts a star-studded cast, including veteran Hong Kong actors Tony Leung Ka Fai and Carina Lau, and up-and-coming Chinese actor Leo Wu.

In a statement posted on the film's official social media platform, the producers apologised to viewers who would not be able to see the movie that took six years to make.

Chinese media quoted unidentified investors as saying the film would be modified and re-released at an unspecified date.


China, which is on track to overtake the North America film market, has become an increasingly important region for global producers looking to pump up their box-office returns, despite a quota on imported films and strict censorship.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2018, with the headline 'China's most expensive film bombs, pulled from cinemas'. Print Edition | Subscribe