Wolverine gorges on China, Korea, but frozen out by Doraemon
Earless time-traveling robocat locks Marvel's latest mutant hero adventure out of Japanese top slot
You’d be forgiven for thinking that it is all about Hugh in Asia this week. Since its opening, Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of cinema’s most ferocious superhero, Wolverine, aka Logan, has sliced and diced the Korean (US$8.7 million) and Chinese (US$55.3 million) markets. But when it comes to exploiting franchises, Marvel are just beginners compared to Japanese companies like Toho.
Topping the chart with a opening weekend take of US$6 million, the 37th film (count ’em, 37!) in Toho’s Doraemon series, Doraemon the Movie, 2017: Great Adventure in the Antarctic Kachi Kochi, is designed not only to keep movie tickets and toy sales rolling, but to tie in with a new Nintendo game that was released two days before the film’s release.
Further instruction in the art of tie-ins, can be found lower down on the Japanese charts, with the latest Kadokawa release, Haruta and Chika. The first film adaptation of the teen-friendly detective novel series written by Hatsuno Sei (and published by Kadokawa), Haruta and Chiku centers on two music students (Haruta on French Horn, Chika on flute) who solve mysteries at their school – usually in time for band practice.
With a Kadokawa-published manga series being initiated in 2015, and a TV anime series that first aired in January, 2016, it’s obvious to a Japanese conglomerate that what 2017 needs is a film adaptation. And though making its debut at number eight on the charts is not likely to create a demand for sequels, the fact is that in the vast publishing empires sustained by corporations like Kadokawa, there are plenty more characters where Haruta and Chiku came from.
Returning to Marvel’s solo mutant venture, there was much discussion from pundits about censorship given the fact that, along with 14 minutes being cut, Logan is also the first film in China to be promoted with an age restriction warning. However, any worries that government concerns about the film’s suitability for Chinese audiences would have an impact on box figures performance have been waived away. Bringing in US$55.3 million since its March 2 opening, Logan’s next nearest competitor, the family friendly American movie, A Dog’s Purpose has retrieved only US$20.7 million in the same time frame, around a third of the Marvel film’s gross.
If you’re looking for Chinese films on the Mainland, you have to go to the foot of the Sino box office chart to find Frightening Embroidery Shoes. The only significant Chinese language debut film this week (from Hong Kong at that), this horror thriller stepped into the number nine slot and has accrued just over half a million US dollars since opening on March 2.
While American movies are all over the Chinese box office, Logan had to do battle with several local productions on the Korean peninsula. Releasing, like Logan, on March 1, Lotte production Bluebeard came off second best. Written and directed by Lee Soo-youn, this film about a doctor (Cho Jin-woong) who discovers a connection between a series of murders still managed to stitch up a healthy US$6.5 million as it emerged from the weekend’s competition.
The other (sort of) newcomer to the Korean box office this week is the cinematic release of KBS production Snowy Road. First aired on TV Channel KBS1 in early 2015, this two-episode drama about a pair of girls enduring the Japanese occupation of Korea was remodeled into a feature-length film for 2015’s Jeonju International Film Festival.
However, the decision to launch a movie version seems to have come too late as Korean audiences have apparently moved on from last year’s inclination toward occupation dramas like Spirits’ Homecoming, The Age of Shadows and The Last Princess. In contrast to those hit films of 2016, Snowy Road only reached number six on the charts and has made just over US$600,000 since its release on March 1.