Bollywood vs Disney, who will win before the Spring Festival holiday?
Published: Jan 06, 2022 07:06 PM
Promotional material for <em>Encanto</em> and <em>Chhichhore</em> (top) Photos: Courtesy of Douban

Promotional material for Chhichhore  Photo: Courtesy of Douban

Promotional material for <em>Encanto</em> and <em>Chhichhore</em> (top) Photos: Courtesy of Douban

Promotional material for Encanto  Photo: Courtesy of Douban

A total of 11 movies are set to hit Chinese mainland theaters on Friday, weeks before the Spring Festival holiday. Among them, the only two foreign language films, Disney's Encanto and India's Chhichhore, both of which have done well in their home markets, will end up going head-to-head in the world's largest film market. 

But Chinese film observers say that their prospects don't look good for their weekend opening and that they most likely won't be able to defeat the US science fiction action film The Matrix Resurrections when it was released the following weekend due to its large number of die-hard fans in China.

According to ticketing platform Maoyan, among the 11 films, Disney's Encanto ranks at the top on the most anticipated list, followed by Chinese comedy Back to Love and horror film Wuneiyouren, while Chhichhore ranks fourth.

"None of the 11 movies will be blockbusters this weekend. Though Encanto currently enjoys the highest popularity, it only has 50,000 people that are interested, less than that for a domestic children's cartoon [debuting on Saturday] with more than 70,000 people, according to Maoyan,"  Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times.

Debuting in North America on November 24, 2021, Encanto has earned $116 million worldwide. But on Chinese media review platform Douban, Encanto only has a mediocre score of 6.4/10, which does not bode well for its performance in China. 

Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times that since Encanto comes from the same production team that made the hit animated films Frozen and Zootopia, the solid reputation of these movies might help Encanto get a boost in China, allowing it to beat out the Indian film. 

While the two disagreed somewhat about Encanto's chances, both film observers were not optimist about the performance of Chhichhore.

Thought the film was directed by Nitesh Tiwari, whose previous work Dangal set a record for Indian movies in the Chinese mainland by grossing $193 million in 2017, the new film does not have a superstar like Aamir Khan in Dangal. Additionally, the film was released in India in 2019, and so as an older film it comes across as less appealing.

"This Indian film cannot beat The Matrix Resurrections, even though the sci-fi sequel has not gotten good reviews in North America. China still has a lot of fans of the franchise," Shi said.

The Matrix Resurrections is scheduled to hit Chinese theaters on January 14. Maoyan shows that more than 140,000 Chinese moviegoers want to watch the film. It first debuted in North America on December 22, 2021, but did not receive good reviews from critics or audiences. 

Besides the two foreign language films, the other nine films are all domestic including one about the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

While most of the movies coming out on Friday began presales earlier in the week, presales for Encanto only kicked off late Thursday afternoon. 

"This may be a strategy by the marketing team for Disney, as they may be afraid that news of weak presales may lead to negative word of mouth ahead of the film's release," said Shi.

Xiao noted that Disney has not put much effort into promoting the film in the Chinese film market, which may show a lack of confidence that Chinese audiences will click with the culture portrayed in the film, which takes place in a magical version of Columbia.