The film, about beloved U.S. TV host Mr. Rogers, received investment from China’s Tencent Pictures in the early part of last year and received its stateside release on Nov. 22, 2019 in time for Thanksgiving. It will release in China on Sept. 18.
Tencent received censorship approval for the film in early January this year. But it did not previously lock in a release date and was assumed to be awaiting the Oscars ceremony in February – Hanks was nominated as a supporting actor – to firm it up. That strategy was upended by the early arrival of the coronavirus outbreak in China and the closure of all mainland China cinemas from Jan. 23.
Chinese cinemas remained closed until July 20 and are only now getting back on track, with a series of health and safety protocols that limit physical distance and keep cinema capacity at 50% of available seats.
Attendance has got off to a steady, but cautious start. Nationwide box office last weekend reached $21.9 million, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway. That was up from roughly $17 million for the two previous weekends, and up from $12.6 million in the July 24-26 opening weekend.
But audiences are now flooding back. More than 1.2 million spectators per day have visited PRC cinemas this week to catch previews of much anticipated Chinese war film “The Eight Hundred,” propelling it to a gross of $24 million event before it officially opens.
While many releases to date in China have been reissues of older titles, a growing number of new and delayed movies are now heading into multiplexes. Of the foreign titles, “Trolls World Tour” opens Friday, while “Little Women” opens on Aug. 25, and “The Current War” releases on Aug. 28. Hollywood’s first blockbuster, “Tenet” will open in China on Sept. 4. “Mulan” has received approval, but not yet been given a date.
Lining up for the Oct. 1 National Day holiday, one of the box office high seasons in China, are much anticipated volleyball drama “Leap,” which was delayed from the Lunar New Year holiday in January.
It is joined by Chinese-made animation “Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification,” which releases on Oct. 2. They will compete against the patriotic anthology film “My People, My Homeland,” a sequel to last National Day’s “My People, My Country,” and Chinese comedy “Coffee or Tea?,” as well as a local animated take on the classic “Mulan” legend.