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‘Transformers’ Prequel ‘Bumblebee’ Gets China Release Date

UPDATED: “Bumblebee,” the sixth installment of Paramount’s “Transformers” franchise, will buzz into Chinese theaters Jan. 4, 2019, two weeks after its U.S. premiere.

The prequel is set 20 years before the first “Transformers” film (2007) and follows the story of a government agency chasing down autobot Bumblebee and the teenage girl who befriends him, played by Hailee Steinfeld. It is the first movie in the series not to be shot by director Michael Bay, who was nevertheless involved as producer. 

The previous two “Transformers” films were bigger hits in China than they were in the U.S. Last year’s “Transformers: The Last Knight” took in $229 million in China – $99 million more than in U.S. – and 2014’s “Transformers: The Age of Extinction” raked in $320 million, outstripping its $245 million showing in the States.

The opening-day windfall for “The Last Knight” was one of the best of all time in China. Nevertheless, the film did not ultimately bring in as much as had been projected, signaling a potential slowdown in the mainland’s appetite for Autobot action.

In the past two years, Chinese viewers’ enthusiasm for the “Transformers” series has “rapidly declined,” local box office analyst Luo Tianwen was quoted as saying by the Beijing News, adding that “director Michael Bay’s visual bombardment has left audiences with aesthetic fatigue.” As a spinoff, “Bumblebee” can likely expect less of a haul than a full “Transformers” franchise movie.

Nevertheless, Tencent Pictures announced late Wednesday that it has joined Paramount as an investor and co-marketing partner for the film, signing on to promote it in China. The company called the move “a key step for Tencent’s overseas business” now that it is “prioritized exploring international markets.” The company will also partner with Paramount on the upcoming sequel to “Top Gun,” to be released in the summer of 2020.

Tencent Pictures has previously been a collaborator on a number of big U.S. blockbusters, including “Wonder Woman,” “Ready Player One,” and “Venom”, this year’s fifth highest grossing film globally.

“Tencent’s involvement in many high-profile international projects has demonstrated its strong capacity in marketing campaigns in China, making Tencent an ideal partner to share this film with a global audience,” said Paramount chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos.

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