Oscar nominee ‘La La Land’ loses to action flick ‘xXx’ in China

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/2/20 18:18:39

Promotional material for  xXx: The Return of Xander Cage Photo: IC

Promotional material for Sing Photo: IC


Promotional material for La La Land Photo: IC

Looking for a film to export to China? It seems action films are still your best choice.

The third week of February saw two acclaimed Hollywood films enter the Chinese market - Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominated musical romantic comedy La La Land premiered on Valentines' Day while animated box-office hit Sing released on Friday. However, neither film was able to beat out action flick xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, which arrived in Chinese mainland cinemas on February 10.

Despite lukewarm reviews, xXx has dominated the mainland theaters for the past two weekends. Even the arrival of the critically acclaimed La La Land was unable to put a dent in the film's momentum. While La La Land earned 69.32 million yuan ($10.1 million) on its opening day on February 14, that was 92 million yuan less than the 161.44 xXx made that day. Moving on to the weekend, La La Land pulled in 58.9, while xXx earned a total of 181.27 million yuan, its second weekend. Sing's situation wasn't much different. While the film grossed $266 million in North America last year, it only earned 81.48 million yuan its opening weekend in the Chinese mainland

Typical Hollywood

La La Land is without a doubt one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2016. It won seven awards at the Golden Globes, including Best Musical or Comedy, and has 14 nominations for the upcoming Oscars. With such acclaim attached to the film, Chinese filmgoers were naturally excited about the film... until they saw it. 

"I was full of anticipation when I went to see the film, and yet I felt more dissatisfied than happy after watching it," Teng Jingshu, a Chinese film critic, wrote on Sina Weibo on Thursday.

"It was a plain musical with a routine romance story… I wonder why it went viral before. I was not moved nor did I see anything special about it… Certainly the lead actor and actress worked hard, but that's all…"

In line with Teng's review, many moviegoers were disappointed that the film depicted a typical love story with no novelty. Others however also tore into the film due to the values it represented.

Concluding that La La Land is a "silver screen textbook example of Hollywood success," blog DeepFocus wrote that though on the surface one of the main characters dreams of becoming a dancer while the other wants to run a nightclub, deep down what they really want is "to gain dignity by acquiring the approval of others" and "to have the right to act willfully and reach a social status where others can not boss them around." 

Pointing to famous Hollywood musical Singin' in the Rain, DeepFocus pointed out that "dignity" has a special meaning in Hollywood, which is "the great satisfaction one has after going from a nobody to becoming the center of attention."

"Maybe the true value of La La Land lies in that the film is so close to reality, especially for the US, that we may one day see it as a funny and accurate pop culture footnote of the Donald Trump era."

Singing for supper

Currently holding an 8.0/10 on Chinese movie site Mtime and an 8.3/10 on media review site Douban, Sing opened with rather small box-office numbers -  14.74 million yuan - to come in at third after La La Land. Yet, unlike most films whose box office often goes down over time, Sing earned more following on the two days after its opening - 34.94 million yuan on Saturday and 31.80 million yuan on Sunday.

"Not bad, heart warming," netizen Egg Zai wrote on Mtime on Sunday. "To be honest, I almost cried when Johnny's father escaped from behind bars to see his son's performance. A very inspirational film, worth watching."

However, compared with xXx's more than 50 million yuan average daily earnings, the newly released animated film still lags behind the older champion.

"I would definitely choose xXx over the others if I just saw their titles and didn't know much about them information," Zhang Zhi, a filmgoer in Beijing, told the Global Times.

"The Chinese translation for this film's title is far more eye-catching than the others."

Just like Zhang, a large number of Chinese go to cinemas without knowing much about the films showing, as such the first impression a title gives can have a huge impact.

Additionally, while the mainland's third- and fourth-tier cities are increasingly contributing larger box-office percentages, promotional activities are still often limited to first- and second-tier cities, as such choosing a film based largely on its title is still a frequent occurrence.

Newspaper headline: Action not words

Posted in: FILM

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