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Aamir Khan’s ‘Secret Superstar’ Poised to Top China Box Office

Secret Superstar,” the latest film vehicle for Indian superstar Aamir Khan, looks set top open on top of the Chinese box office. It is enjoying the momentum created by Khan’s previous film “Dangal,” which enjoyed an unprecedented $193 million of business in China.

“Superstar” had clocked up $3.5 million (RMB23.3 million) by 3pm on Friday, its opening day. That put it comfortably atop the early charts with a 25% market share.

In second place, with 16% market share was Zhang Ziyi-starring holdover “Forever Young” and new release “Guardians of the Tomb,” with close to 15%. “Guardians,” previously titled “Nest,” is a big-budget Australian-Chinese co-production starring Li Bingbing, Kellan Lutz and Kelsey Grammer. It is yet another entry in the Chinese sub-genre of tomb raiding action adventures.

“Superstar” is a smaller film than Disney-UTV-backed sports and family drama “Dangal.” It is the tale of a 14-year old girl (Zaira Wasim) who dreams of becoming a singer and overcomes obstacles including social inequality and domestic violence along the way. Directed by Advait Chandan, and produced by Aamir Khan Productions on a budget of $2.4 million, it pitches Khan in a supporting role as a quirky musician.

Nevertheless, in China it is being handled like a major blockbuster. It is one of the first Indian film to have secured a revenue sharing slot – previously Indian titles were treated as minority fare and imported only on flat-fee terms. That allows Khan to directly share in the gross receipts. Fox’s Shah Rukh Khan-starring “My Name is Khan” was an earlier rare example of  revenue sharing on an Indian title.

Arguably, the only Indian actor with a significant personal following in China, Khan is now embarking on a full week tour of cities in China. He is scheduled for three days (post-release) in Beijing, Jan.23-26.

With a host of strong Chinese competitors hitting Middle Kingdom screens, and Chinese New Year less than a month away, “Superstar” is not expected to repeat the “Dangal” success. But it boasts excellent word of mouth. Movie rating website Douban gave it an 8.2 out of 10 score. On Maoyan it had an even higher 9.6 rating.

Those numbers could mean that, like “Dangal,” the China box office for a Khan movie exceeds the Indian and rest of the world total. Released in October in its home market, “Superstar” earned $12.5 million and a further $7.82 million in other territories, for a global total of $20.3 million.

The mid-afternoon Friday figures also point to “Jumanji,” last weekend’s box office leader being relegated to seventh spot, though it will likely perk up over Saturday and Sunday. Its running total in China is $58.6 million. “Star Wars: the Last Jedi” is on $39.8 million (RMB259 million).

One other consequence of the Aamir Khan penetration into the world’s second largest movie market, is the likely introduction of further Indian titles into China. Salman Khan-starring “Bajrangi Bhaijaan,” released worldwide in 2015, is now set to get a China release on March 2, 2018.

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