“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” completely fizzled in its second weekend in China, setting it on track to become the least successful installment of the franchise by far in the world’s second largest film market.
By Monday, “Skywalker” ranked seventh at the box office behind a pack of local Chinese action films and dramas. After opening with the weakest debut of any recent “Star Wars” film in the country, it made just $2 million in its second weekend and accounted for less than 3% of China’s total screenings.
Since last week, online ticketing platform Maoyan has lowered its prediction for the lifetime gross for “The Rise of Skywalker” down to just $19.7 million, far below the $126 million grossed by “The Force Awakens” in 2015, the $69.4 million for “Rogue One” in 2016 and the $42.6 million for “The Last Jedi” in 2017.
Instead, historical martial arts film “Ip Man 4: The Finale” continued to lead the China box office with a $24.2 million weekend haul. That elevated its cume since debuting alongside “Skywalker” on Dec. 20 up to $97.6 million — more than five times the JJ Abrams-helmed film’s current $17.6 million haul.
“Ip Man 4” accounted for between 20 and 30% of total screenings each day through the weekend, highlighting the extent to which local films rather than foreign imports have been winning over local audiences in recent months.
Directed by Wilson Yip, it stars Donnie Yen as the eponymous Wing Chun grandmaster who here travels to the U.S. with his son in search of a better life. The Hong Kong film has faced calls for a boycott by pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters in its home turf due to the pro-Beijing stances of Yen, co-star Danny Chan and producer Raymond Wong, who have publicly toed the Communist Party’s line and expressed support for the Hong Kong police force.
The box office had a relatively quiet weekend, with just one of 13 new movies to hit theaters over Friday and Saturday making it into the top five: Beijing Culture’s action film “S.W.A.T,” which debuted third with $6.3 million.
Chinese crime drama “Sheep Without a Shepherd” came in second, making $16.6 million. Directed by Malaysia’s Sam Quah, it features the “Detective Chinatown” series star Xiao Yang, veteran actress Joan Chen (“The Last Emperor,” Netflix’s “Marco Polo”) and Tan Zhuo (“Dying to Survive”). The film a remake of India’s 2013 “Drishyam,” which at the time become the country’s highest grossing Malayalam-language movie.
In fourth was Chinese romantic film “Almost a Comedy,” which grossed $5.1 million to beat Feng Xiaogang’s New Zealand-set road trip film “Only Cloud Knows,” which came in fifth with $3.2 million.
Chinese fifth generation female helmer Li Shaohong’s patriotic war film “Liberation” was initially set to hit theaters in October, when authorities were aggressively celebrating the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic by promoting nationalistic films, but was abruptly yanked from its debut. It finally hit screens on Friday after an apparent rebrand that made it seem more uplifting and hopeful, changing its poster art and Chinese title to “Liberation: Finally Rescued.” The $14.2 million-budgeted film has fared poorly, making just $2.26 million so far and looking set to become the least commercially successful of that batch of “main melody” films.