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China Box Office: ‘The Farewell,’ ‘Richard Jewell’ Fail to Unseat Local Holdovers

L to R: "Jiang Yongbo, Aoi
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” and Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell” both flopped in China with dismal $261,000 and $212,000 opening weekends, respectively, according to data from Maoyan. 

Although “The Farewell” was distributed directly by Maoyan, one of China’s biggest online ticketing platforms, the critical darling made a paltry $78,000 (RMB537,000) on opening day Friday. Screenings were on average only 0.5% occupied, the platform’s own data shows.

The poor showing comes just after the Lulu Wang-helmed film won Awkwafina the Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy and received a nod in that race for best foreign language film. Its failure to hit home in China recalls the “Crazy Rich Asians” phenomenon in 2018. “Asians” reaped $238 million stateside and was hailed as a milestone for Asian American representation, but grossed just $1.65 million in Mainland China, where many found it overly stereotypical and offensive.

An incredible 21 new titles hit theaters over the weekend, six of which were foreign — including the Dwayne Johnson vehicle “Fighting With My Family.” None of them proved breakout hits. 

Two of these imports made it to the weekend’s top five list, but with sputtering debuts. A $3.5 million opening for shark horror thriller “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” brought it to fourth place, while Japanese anime “Violet Evergarden” came in fifth with $3.4 million. 

Despite an onslaught of new material, China saw a very quiet box office weekend led by three local holdover titles, with the market in a stasis awaiting a bevy of big guns set to hit cineplexes in two weeks for the Chinese new year holiday.

Chinese pet drama “Adoring” led the pack with a $8.8 million weekend haul, according to figures from consultancy Artisan Gateway. The tear-jerking collection of stories about people and their  animal companions has brought in $81.3 million since Dec. 31.

“Ip Man 4: The Finale” held strong in second place, making $8.5 million in its fourth weekend in theaters to bring its total up to $148 million. It was recently granted an extension to run for an extra month. Trailing it in third was Chinese thriller “Sheep Without a Shepherd,” a remake of the 2013 Indian film “Drishyam.” It earned $8.0 million over the weekend for a $149 million cumulative.

By early Monday evening, “The Farewell” languished far below, ranking 17th at the box office behind “Richard Jewell.” The latter has received a limited release in the country via China’s National Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas.