Flood of release dates shows foreign studios optimistic about Chinese film market
Published: Feb 05, 2023 11:45 PM
Promotional material of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Photo: Snapshow of Sina Weibo

Promotional material of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Photo: Snapshow of Sina Weibo

Following the Spring Festival holiday, the most lucrative film period of the year, a flood of foreign language films have been continuously locking down release dates in the Chinese mainland in the hopes of capitalizing on Chinese moviegoers' high enthusiasm for movies.  

Currently, China's box-office receipts have already hit the $1.5 billion mark for the year thanks to the recent Spring Festival, which saw its second highest take in its history. 

Chinese film critics told the Global Times that the upcoming lineup of foreign films shows that the world is optimistic about the Chinese film industry and the quick recovery of the world's second biggest film market after China downgraded its COVID-19 management from Class A to Class B.

On Thursday, Warner Bros. Discovery confirmed that its Shazam! Fury of the Gods is set for release on March 17, the same day the sequel touches down in the US. The first Shazam! film, featuring Zachary Levi as the title character, earned $43.8 million of its $366 million worldwide total in the Chinese mainland in 2019. 

Prior to the announcement, two Marvel films had already received release dates. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which was released elsewhere in the world in November 2022, will hit mainland theaters on Tuesday, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is set for February 17, the same day as North America.

The two films ranked second and third respectively on the most-anticipated list on Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan, with more than 20,000 moviegoers on the platform putting them in their "want to see" list. 

Black Panther (2018) grossed 663 million yuan in the Chinese mainland. As of Sunday afternoon, pre-sales for the sequel had earned 2 million yuan, while the screen rate for Tuesday is estimated to be 30.4 percent across the country, according to Maoyan.

Cheng Hao, a Beijing-based film critic, told the Global Times that based on the data and coupled with the emotional impact of the passing of Black Panther's lead actor,  it is highly possible Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will perform well at the box office in the mainland.

Besides the three superheroes films, a 2022 drama film The Son and a 2022 historical comedy-drama film Mrs Harris Goes to Paris will be released on February 24 and March 31, respectively. Japanese animated film Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street has been confirmed for April 4. 

Some film insiders said that another Japanese animated film Suzume, Thai-language drama film One for the Road and a 2018 Indian Hindi-language drama film Sui Dhaaga: Made in India might be released in the mainland in the March and April.

Chinese film critics said the diverse genre films among the foreign language films over the next several months show that the Chinese film market is healthy.

Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based film critic, told the Global Times that March and April usually are a "heaven" for foreign language films. He pointed out that the Oscars, which are usually held in late February or March, might trigger some heated discussion on Chinese social media, and that could help to promote the released English language films in the Chinese mainland. For instance, Oscars winner Green Book grossed 479 million yuan in the mainland in March 2019.

"The good performance of the second highest box office in the history of the Spring Festival clearly shows that the market in 2023 has substantially recovered," Cheng said.