New law, slowing sales take shine off China’s box office
Marvel's Dr Strange maintains spell over China, South Korea, but Hollywood finds Japan's anime-led market a tough nut to crack
It wasn’t movies that made big box office news in China this week. With the passing of the country’s “first film law,” film-makers will be keeping a nervous eye on the new stipulation that their movies must “serve the people and socialism.”
Meanwhile, the business end of the Chinese industry is preoccupied with the government’s newly acquired powers to penalize distributors and theater owners – big and small – that misreport box office takings.
The law doesn’t come into effect until March 2017, but some in the industry are worried that the government will make preemptive strikes on those that fudge their numbers. According to state news agency Xinhua, firms that violate the new law may lose their distribution and business licenses and could be fined up to five times earnings.
It seems likely that these more stringent conditions for revenue reporting may cause figures to morph towards a new normal in the next few months, especially when taken into account with evidence that China’s box office growth is slowing.
While the Chinese industry nervously eyes the future, Dr Strange continues to dominate its present. The Marvel blockbuster’s cumulative gross reached US$83.4 million this week.
The sorcerer supreme fought off an incursion from Taiwan’s Ang Lee, whose Iraq War drama, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, raked in US$11.7 million over its opening weekend. One Piece Film Gold, the latest installment of Japan’s One Piece TV/anime franchise, took in US$10.1 million in the same time frame.
Chinese newcomer Scandal Maker, a comedy drama featuring Tong Dawei and Michelle Chen, ran a distant fourth as it picked up just over US$5 million on its opening weekend.
Dr Strange also holds sway over the South Korean box office, with its third week in the top spot. Living up to its title, Split, a local sports picture about bowling, was unable to make a full strike. The film did manage a respectable US$3.6 million in its opening weekend.
Former South Korean number one Luck-Key is still raking in tickets with a US$55 million total. The hit-man amnesia comedy should collect a memorable haul of just under US$60 million by the end of November.
In Japan, anime powerhouse Your Name continues its dominance and proved it by holding onto the number one slot. Death Note: Light Up the New World, which briefly knocked Your Name off its 9-week perch, tumbled out of the top three.
Moving straight into No. 3 is the dark and bloody delights of Keishi Otomo’s serial killer movie Museum (US$2.2 million), with Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (US$1.7 million) at No.3.
At the bottom of Japan’s top 10 this week were Hosokawa Toru’s gentle, geriatric-driven comedy drama Golden Orchestra! at number nine and rounding out the list was In This Corner of the World, a Hiroshima-set anime drama that looks at a young girl’s life in the year before the atomic bomb.
Despite being no threat to Your Name, In This Corner of the World accrued a healthy audience despite only showing on 63 screens, underlining the fact that anime is the foundation of the Japanese box office.