Hollywood and Chinese sci-fi offerings went head-to-head at the Chinese box office this weekend. Newcomer “Alita: Battle Angel” smashed its way to the top with a $64 million debut — streaking past the Chinese titles that, though popular, have been in theaters since the Lunar New Year holiday at the start of the month.
Fox’s futuristic tale of an amnesiac cyborg who rediscovers her identity on the mean streets of Iron City nearly doubled the weekend tally of “The Wandering Earth,” the Chinese sci-fi blockbuster that has climbed the charts since its Feb. 5 debut to become the country’s second-highest grossing film of all time. The Chinese film took in $34.3 million this weekend towards a cumulative total of $641 million, according to figures from consulting firm Artisan Gateway.
“Alita” is the first foreign film to hit Chinese theaters after the heady new year period, during which authorities impose an unofficial blackout on imported titles to bolster the local industry. Its first day ticket sales surpassed that of the “Transformers” series spinoff “Bumblebee,” and also knocked “The Wandering Earth” off a 15-day streak at the top of the daily box office.
Online user reviews raved about “Alita’s” visual effects, with Weibo influencer flypig writing: “This film represents the most advanced visual effects you can see on planet Earth in 2019.” Nevertheless, metrics on the Maoyan online platform predicted that its estimated China earnings would fall some $560 million short of those for “The Wandering Earth,” its technologically less adept, homegrown rival,
Popular on Variety
A rung below the two behemoths, Chinese writer-director Han Han’s comedy “Pegasus” and director Ning Hao’s “Crazy Alien” battled it out neck and neck for third, with the former squeezing ahead with $8.1 million to the latter’s $7.9 million. Like “The Wandering Earth,” “Crazy Alien” was adapted from the writings of sci-fi author Liu Cixin.
In fifth place was the children’s film “Boonie Bears: Blast Into the Past,” with just $3.4 million. Fantawild has churned out a film version of the popular animated TV series every year since 2014.
It has far outstripped its lunar festival competition “Peppa Pig Celebrates the Chinese New Year,” which has flopped despite the viral success of a promotional short film issued before its debut, bringing in just $87,000 (RMB582,000) over the weekend for a total of $18.5 million (RMB124 million). “Peppa” took in nearly 90% of its revenue in its opening holiday weekend.