Could 'The Batman' reactivate China's current sluggish film market?
Hollywood's return
Published: Mar 15, 2022 09:25 PM
the US film <em>Uncharted</em> Photo:Courtesy of Maoyan

The US film Uncharted Photo:Courtesy of Maoyan

the US the Batman Photo:Courtesy of Maoyan

The Batman Photo:Courtesy of Maoyan

The Chinese film market, the world's largest one in 2021, is facing a historical low ebb in March as many daily box office revenue only reached less than 20 million yuan($3 million). Chinese film observers said that the current surge in COVID-19 cases nationally as well as a lack of high-quality films are the main factors. But the US movie The Batman is more likely to stimulate the currently muted Chinese film market through solid word-of-mouth and the high popularity of the cast.

March is the annual off-season for the Chinese film market. After the "baptism" of the Chinese New Year and the Valentine's Day, few producers choose to release their films in the season.

According to China's ticketing platform Maoyan, a total of five foreign language films have been scheduled to hit Chinese theaters in March including the on-screening US action-adventure film Uncharted.

Premiered on Monday, Uncharted has currently only grossed more than 26 million yuan as of Tuesday. Chinese film observers said the movie is unlikely to make big waves in the Chinese film market.

"Uncharted has basically failed in the Chinese film market," Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

He explained that the film has a limited target audience as it was adapted from a game. Meanwhile, its production scale cannot compete with that of big budget Hollywood blockbusters, and the plot itself is not compelling.

The absence of 2021's blockbuster Spider-Man: No Way Home from the Chinese mainland's big screen made it impossible for the lead, Thomas Stanley Holland, better known as "Dutch Brother," to take advantage of the opportunity to promote Uncharted. It cannot gain a wide audience, echoed Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai.

As Spider-Man: No Way Home has been confirmed to be available for purchase on major streaming platforms on Tuesday, the two experts said it is almost impossible to release the film to the Chinese mainland.

However, they are optimistic about the upcoming superhero film The Batman set to be screened beginning Friday in the Chinese mainland. 

When it is confirmed that the film will be imported into China, the related hashtag quickly trended on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo with more than 150 million views. Many Chinese netizens expressed a high anticipation for it and the return of protagonist Robert Pattinson to the big screen after having gained resounding popularity in the vampire-themed romance fantasy franchise The Twilight Saga

The Batman may have a good market potential as it has the superhero IP "batman," the superstar Robert Pattinson, as well as the director Matt Reeves who is famous for his directorial masterpiece Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, said Xiao.

The Warner Bros. film premiered in North America on March 4, and has achieved both an ideal box office debut figure by currently rating as the highest-grossing movie of 2022 and excellent reviews on IMDb with a high score of 8.4/10.

However, a resurgence of the domestic epidemic in China stands to hamper box office success for the superhero adventure film. 

As of Monday, a total of 3,690 theaters had been shut down, and cinema openings in 40 cities across the country have been completely suspended. The suspended theaters accounted for 29.77 percent of all national theaters, according to the report by China Securities Journal.

An Indian box-office hit, Kanaa, a movie that explores India's social issues on gender and race, will also hit Chinese theaters on Friday.

Released in 2018 in India, the movie has a score of 7.9 out of 10 on the IMDb online database.

Though the film shares the same sports theme and the father-daughter love with the phenomenal film Dangal, it lacks the box office heft of a hit renowned star and box office appeal in China like Aamir Khan.

On March 25, science fiction disaster film Moonfall and animation film New Cinderella are set to be screened in the Chinese mainland. 

New Cinderella had a showing in the Chinese mainland in 2018. Its box office returns was 60.22 million yuan with a dismal review rating of  only 4.4/10 on China's reviewing website Douban. But upon its impending re-release, it is still unable to make much of a splash. 

Media reported that Roland Emmerich's Moonfall, released in North America on February 4, only earned a mediocre score of 5.3/10 on IMDb. The movie cost an estimated $146 million to make and it has grossed just $18.9 million in North America and $39.4 million worldwide.

"As Chinese moviegoers have higher movie aesthetics, the tentpole is almost impossible to recoup the budget by relying on the Chinese film market," said Xiao.
the US film Moonfall Photo:Courtesy of Maoyan

The US film Moonfall Photo:Courtesy of Maoyan

the US film <em>New Cinderella</em> Photo:Courtesy of Maoyan

The US film New Cinderella Photo:Courtesy of Maoyan

Indian film <em>Kanaa</em> Photo:Courtesy of Maoyan

Indian film Kanaa Photo:Courtesy of Maoyan

the box office in 2019-22

The box office in 2019-22