Will an overseas release allow director Jia Ling’s ‘Hi, Mom’ to surpass Patty Jenkins’ ‘Wonder Woman’ to become the highest-grossing film directed by a solo woman?
Published: Mar 15, 2021 06:57 PM
Poster of Hi, Mom in a cinema in Shanghai Photo: CFP

Poster of Hi, Mom in a cinema in Shanghai Photo: CFP

Chinese film Hi, Mom, which recently became the second highest-grossing film in China, is set to be released overseas, but Chinese film experts say they are not optimistic about its international box office due to cultural differences as well as the knee-capped number of opened global theaters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sunday, the official Sina Weibo account for Hi, Mom announced that this tear-jerking comedy will be released in more than 17 countries and regions throughout Asia, North America, Europe and Oceania. 

Many Chinese netizens took to social media to congratulate the film's production team. The hashtag "Hi, Mom will be released worldwide" had earned 630 million views on Sina Weibo as of Monday afternoon.

However, some netizens expressed their concern that the light-hearted family comedy might not live up to the expectations of overseas audiences because of language and cultural differences. 

"Hi, Mom is a typical Chinese family story and its comic elements are mainly based on the language, like some Chinese puns, so it might be difficult for foreign audiences to understand, which might limit its box office overseas," Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Monday.

"One reason behind the decision to release overseas may be because the film's director Jia Ling wants to challenge the position of Patty Jenkins, director of the Wonder Woman series, to have her film become the highest-grossing one in the world directed by a woman," Xiao added.

According to Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan, Hi, Mom has grossed 5.259 billion yuan ($808 million) in China as of Monday while the global box office of the 2017 Wonder Woman was $822 million.  

Shi Wenxue, a film critic and teacher at the Beijing Film Academy, echoed Xiao's view, "the film's target-audience will mainly be overseas Chinese."

But Shi pointed out that Hi, Mom might perform better at the box office than other Chinese films that premiered during the Spring Festival period in February and later released overseas since the themes of family and empathy are global draws. 

Media reported that Chinese films New Gods: Nezha Reborn, Endgame and A Writer's Odyssey were all released overseas and that Netflix has the exclusive streaming rights for the film New Gods: Nezha Reborn outside of the Chinese mainland.

Another reason the film may not perform well overseas is that many theaters remain closed or are operating at lower capacity overseas, both experts noted. 

According to a Screendaily report, cinemas in most European countries including France, Italy and the UK are closed and the cinemas in the US are only opened in some areas. 

This is not the first time that a Chinese comedy has been exported overseas. In 2018, Detective Chinatown 2 premiered in China and North America simultaneously. In China, it grossed $ 522 million while it only grossed $1.98 million in the US.

Zhao Fang, president of Warner Bros China, once said in a forum during the Beijing International Film Festival in 2020 that exporting Chinese comedy overseas can be considered "failed attempts." 

"Releasing Hi, Mom is more symbolic than about profit. I think releasing China's second-highest-grossing film overseas can be seen as a successful example of exporting Chinese culture overseas and is a good opportunity for international exchanges," said Xiao.