Paramount’s “Transformers” spinoff “Bumblebee” flew to the top of the Chinese box office in its opening weekend, raking in $58.8 million. While nothing to scoff at, the figure marks the lowest opening for the franchise in years in China, where other “Transformers” installments have broken ticketing records.
Meanwhile, the first “Rocky” franchise movie ever to be released in China appears set to take a bit of a beating at the box office. “Creed II” ranked a low fifth in its opening China weekend, making just $1.7 million, despite strong Chinese user reviews.
Before “Bumblebee,” “Transformers: The Last Knight” took in $120 million during its 2017 opening weekend and 2014’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction” scored $92 million, marking the 11th and 23rd largest opening weekends of all time in China, respectively. But as a spinoff rather than a full “Transformers” film, “Bumblebee’s” weaker performance might not raise too many eyebrows.
Chinese moviegoers are raving about the film, giving it a high 9.2 out of 10 rating on user review platform Maoyan and a solid 7.3 on Douban. Users cooed over puppy-like lead Autobot Bumblebee, calling him “utterly adorable,” with many saying the new film was sure to appeal to more women. A number also praised its “old school feel,” and welcomed the change of pace in the first franchise feature not to be directed by explosion-happy Michael Bay.
“This is the ‘Transformers’ I’ve been waiting for,” wrote one ecstatic Maoyan user. “You really get a sense of the Transformers toys from when you were a kid.”
But diehard Bay fans felt betrayed that the film failed to deliver a nonstop stream of eyeball-busting fight sequences, and questioned the choice of director Travis Knight, best known for his sensitive debut, “Kubo and the Two Strings,” an Academy Award-nominated animated film set in Japan. “When people go to the theater to see ‘Transformers,’ do they want to watch an hour and a half of emotional plot development and then just 10 minutes of fighting?! I don’t know why someone with a literary sensibility would want to shoot this kind of material,” a Douban user huffed.
“The extra plot and character development weren’t necessarily any smarter than the stuff they used to squeeze in between explosions,” another added. “It seems Paramount films are now only suitable for old people.”
In a weekend almost entirely dominated by U.S. movies, Chinese comedic drama “Kill Mobile” held its own in second place with $12.3 million. That lifted its cumulative score to $74.5 million, according to consultancy Artisan Gateway, since the film’s Dec. 28 release.
After a month in play, “Aquaman” still managed to rank third with $4.1 million, bringing its total earnings in China to $283 million. Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” came in fourth with $1.96 million. Its cumulative in China is now $59.6 million.
“Creed II’s” fifth-place performance came in spite of an 8.8 score on Maoyan and 7.4 on Douban. The film debuted more than a month ago in the U.S.
Cumulative box office for the year to date is $135 million, marking a slow start. That is a 36% dip compared with the same period at the beginning of 2018.