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‘Aquaman’ Torpedoes to Strong Start in China

UPDATED: “Aquaman” torpedoed to a strong start in China on Friday, with Warner Bros. estimating that its latest superhero blockbuster reeled in RMB 169 million ($24.6 million) in the studio’s biggest-ever opening day in the Middle Kingdom.

Midnight screenings the night before brought in another RMB 9 million ($1.3 million), according to data from entertainment consultancy Artisan Gateway. An $80 million opening weekend appears within reach, which would far surpass that of DC Comics titles “Batman vs. Superman” ($55 million) and “Wonder Woman” ($37.7 million).

Aquaman” has been garnering extremely favorable reviews online, an important driver of the Chinese film market, the world’s second-largest after the U.S. The hashtag “‘Aquaman’ is an explosive high” was trending Friday evening on Weibo, China’s Twitter. “I felt like a moviegoer in the 70s watching ‘Star Wars’ for the first time,” wrote one awed user.

The film was released in China two weeks before its rollout in the U.S. to beat the crush of other Hollywood titles, including “The Grinch” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” that are set to open over the holiday period. “Aquaman” swims into Chinese cinemas just as another Hollywood tentpole, Sony’s “Venom,” is easing its grip on the box office. “Venom” has earned well over $250 million in less than a month, and has been granted an extension beyond the standard four weeks that most Hollywood films get in Chinese theaters.

“Aquaman’s” splashy opening-day performance put it in a hugely comfortable first place at the box office, with more than 85% market share, ahead of local crime thriller “A Cold Fish,” a surprise hit that pushed past $100 million Friday. U.S.-made survival tale “Adrift” was in third place, with an estimated 2.5% market share.

Starring Jason Momoa as a badass King of Atlantis, “Aquaman” earned a high 8.3 rating on key Chinese user-review site Douban. Many fans expressed admiration for director James Wan, who is of Malaysian-Chinese descent; one of the most popular reviews said: “He’s a technical madman. After Spielberg, Lucas and Cameron…from now on, among the world’s top technical directors, there is a Chinese one – James Wan!!!”

“Years ago, how could we have imagined that the most explosive DC movie would be ‘Aquaman’?” wrote another. “I just wanted to stay in my seat and watch the film infinite times! After exams I’ll definitely have to come back to get my fill and break my record of seven viewings.”

Becky Davis contributed to this report.

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