Paramount’s “Transformers” spinoff “Bumblebee” far outstripped local competitors at China’s weekend box office to bring in $25.8 million, according to figures from consulting firm Artisan Gateway. Yet despite strong praise from audiences about the film’s more character-focused storytelling and the cuteness of its eponymous Autobot, the new origin story has still underperformed compared to the previous franchise titles directed by Michael Bay.
Imax screenings accounted for $2.5 million of “Bumblebee’s” three-day haul, bumping the film’s total Imax revenue in China up to $10 million. As of Sunday night, the Hailee Steinfeld-starring tale has grossed a cumulative $107 million in China after 10 days in theaters.
The figures make it appear unlikely that the Travis Knight-directed picture will outstrip the latest “Transformers” installments. “The Last Knight” brought in $229 million in China in 2017, while “Transformers: The Age of Extinction” grossed an even larger sum at a time when the country had fewer screens and multiplexes, earning $320 million in 2014.
“Bumblebee” beat two new local titles, a local holdover and a Japanese animation. In second place with a $15.9 million opening weekend was “The Big Shot,” a Chinese remake of the 2015 Korean comedic crime thriller “Veteran,” one of the highest-grossing South Korean movies of all time.
“White Snake,” a co-venture between Warner Bros. and Beijing-based Light Chaser Animation, came in third with an opening weekend of $7.5 million. It is the first animated take on a popular Chinese legend depicted numerous times before on the big screen. It tells of a white snake spirit who falls in star-crossed love with a scholar and takes on human form to be with him. The movie plays with temporal dimensions and means that the sprite met her man in a past life.
In its third weekend, “Kill Mobile,” a comedy drama and Chinese remake of the Italian film “Perfect Strangers,” came in fourth with $4.5 million. It beat Japanese anime film “Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel,” which took in $3.6 million in its three-day opening.
Despite nearly 40 days in theaters, James Wan’s “Aquaman” continued to draw in a trickle of moviegoers, making $1.82 million, according to data from other sources. Granted a theatrical extension by Chinese authorities, it will remain in cinemas through Feb. 6, the second day of the Lunar New Year – a prime movie-going period when China typically seeks to showcase local rather than foreign titles.
Box office competition for the holiday period will be brutal. Some 13 films – including blockbusters directed by Stephen Chow, Ning Hao, and Han Han and starring Jackie Chan – are set for release Feb. 5, the first day of what for many in China will be a weeklong break.