STX Entertainment’s “UglyDolls” is set to hit Chinese theaters on Aug. 8, despite rising tensions between China and the U.S. over their trade war. China’s Alibaba Pictures is a co-producer and co-financier of the film.
The movie was originally announced as having a mainland release date of May 31. No reason has been given for its rescheduling.
Alibaba announced its involvement in the film in January, with the company’s president, Zhang Wei, expressing excitement that the partnership would allow Alibaba to “build out this beloved global intellectual property for years to come.” But the movie flopped in the U.S., where it was critically panned. Directed by Kelly Asbury (“Shrek 2”) on a $45 million budget, and featuring the voices of Emma Roberts, Kelly Clarkson and Nick Jonas, “UglyDolls” has grossed less than $20 million in the U.S. since its May 3 debut.
A China release might help it recoup its losses, but performance of youth-oriented Hollywood content has seen its ups and downs so far this year in the Middle Kingdom. “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” has grossed $91.6 million so far and was recently granted an extra month in Chinese theaters, but earlier this year, Paramount’s animated feature “Wonder Park” made just $6.78 million in the world’s second-largest movie market.
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As the U.S.-China trade war heats up, industry insiders say that China has issued a de facto ban on the promotion and import of certain types of American content, but so far, the theatrical release of Hollywood films appears to continue unabated.
Toy sales were envisioned as a key component of the new “UglyDolls” franchise, with Hasbro the global master toy licensee. Alibaba runs Taobao, the world’s largest ecommerce platform.