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‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ Set for China Debut, Following ‘Zootopia,’ ‘Big Hero 6’ Re-Releases

Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE
Photo Credit: Courtesy Paramount

Paramount Pictures’ “Sonic the Hedgehog” will finally debut on the big screen in China on July 31, becoming the headliner for the second weekend of business for newly reopened cinemas.

The film will compete for audience attention with two other animated titles now set to hit screens July 31: a re-release of the 2014 Disney animated film “Big Hero 6,” which grossed $83.8 million in Chinese cinemas in 2015, and new local animation “Mr. Miao.”

“Sonic the Hedgehog” was initially scheduled to premiere in China on Feb. 28, two weeks after its Feb. 14 U.S. debut. The film grossed $146 million Stateside. Its most successful overseas territory to date has been the U.K., where it grossed $24 million, followed by France, where it grossed $17 million.

The film will number among the half dozen or so other American titles that are being deployed to help catalyze audience interest in returning to cinemas, most of which are family-friendly, such as “Coco” and Will Smith-starring “The Pursuit of Happyness.”

Disney’s “Zootopia” has also been scheduled to screen again from this Friday (July 24). The film grossed $236 million in China in 2016 and is the country’s 32nd highest-earning film of all time.

So far, the Tom Hanks-starring “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” backed by Tencent Pictures, and a 3D, 4K version of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” have confirmed upcoming China releases but not yet set official dates. The former announced it had been approved for China back in early January, while the latter was was ready to roll back in March.

China’s theaters have been shut since late January — closures that have meant financial ruin for many exhibitors. Cinemas in low coronavirus-risk regions were allowed to resume operations on Monday, but it remains to be seen how quickly ticket sales will rebound. A number of previously scheduled but canceled major Chinese blockbusters are holding off on announcing premieres until the market is more robust.

For the first opening weekend in nearly half a year, “Zootopia” will go up against the China premieres of “Dolittle” and “Bloodshot,” as well as re-releases of the Dennis Quaid-starring “A Dog’s Journey,” Lebanese Cannes title “Capernaum,” and a local animation about animal cops that very clearly rode the “Zootopia” popularity wave, iQiyi’s “Spycies.”

The first new Chinese blockbuster to set a release date is the Beijing Culture-backed propaganda film “Me and My Hometown,” executive produced by Zhang Yimou. A portmanteau film with shorts from some of the country’s most popular directors in the vein of last year’s “My People, My Country,” it will release on Oct. 1 in time for the country’s National Day holiday.

Offering new content will be key to getting viewers back in cinemas. So far, only one new title has debuted — the Xinjiang-set arthouse title “A First Farewell” — and it has far overtaken other offerings at the currently minuscule box office as of day one of reopenings.