Patriotic Chinese viewers flexed their muscles this weekend to topple Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Monster Hunter,” which grossed just $4.8 million before it was pulled from cinemas due to complaints that interpreted a line of dialogue to be racist and “insulting to China.”
In a slow week, however, that was enough to net it a fifth place open, even though cinemas had entirely pulled the title from their line-ups by early Saturday. The result is assuredly disappointing, however, considering Anderson’s previous China outing.
His last film to screen in China was 2017’s “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” which grossed $160 million there — six times more than it did in the U.S., making China the title’s top-selling global market by a margin of more than $123 million.
(The two other of Anderson’s films screened in the country did not receive quite the same reception: earlier franchise chapter “Resident Evil: Retribution” grossed $17.3 million in 2013, while “Pompeii” grossed $15.6 million in 2014.)
The political firestorm sparked by the new film may have consequences for the future prospects of his work in the world’s largest film market.
This weekend, it was Enlight Pictures’ rom-com “‘The End of Endless Love” that topped the Chinese box office instead with a $22.6 million debut. Directed by female helmer Luo Luo, best known for the $54.6 million-grossing 2018 romantic drama “Cry Me A Sad River,” it stars female lead Zhang Ruonan, who also appeared in that film, opposite Sun Chenjun.
Another new local title, Edko Films’ fantasy adventure film “Soul Snatcher,” opened in second close behind with $19.5 million. Executive produced by Bill Kong and co-directed by Song Haolin and Yi Liqi, it features traditional Chinese cultural elements to tell the story of a young fox demon who must retrieve a pearl from a human target in order to pass a test and achieve immortality.
DreamWorks Animation’s “The Croods: A New Age” came in third, netting $11.7 million this weekend to boost its cumulative gross in the country since its Nov. 27 debut up to $36.1 million. It is the sequel to “The Croods,” which grossed $63 million in China in 2013.
Meanwhile, the holdover local crime thriller “Caught in Time” from Emperor Motion Pictures came in fourth with earnings of $6.1 million.