The family-friendly comedy earned $23.8 million in three days, according to data from Artisan Gateway. That was fully 56% of the nationwide theatrical haul between Friday and Sunday.
It earned $3.77 million of its total from Imax screens. That was 16% of the nationwide weekend total from only 1% of screens.
The new release title knocked action film “Raging Fire” into second place. It scored $8.5 million for a $163 million cumulative since its July 30 debut.
Chinese youth romance film “Farewell My Lad” was the weekend’s other top new release title. It earned a disappointing $2.3 million in fourth place.
The film was directed by Yin Ruoxin and stars Zhang Zifeng, the same duo as first quarter hit “Sister” which earned over $100 million. Farewell My Lad was scheduled to have been released in April and its run would potentially have overlapped with that of “Sister.” But, three days before its scheduled debut, the release was “temporarily suspended.” State news organization Xinhua reported the distributor as blaming “technical reasons.” That is widely understood to be a euphemism for censorship.
Chinese authorities have operated a nearly two-month blackout period over the summer. This is an annual operation that keeps out most import titles and is intended to give Chinese-language films a chance to play with minimal competition. Other blackout periods can operate at the Chinese New Year holidays, the October 1 National Day celebrations and around Christmas.
Pixar title “Luca” was permitted a release a week ago. But, coming more than two months after its mid-June launch on the Disney Plus streaming service, its results were hobbled.
“Free Guy” got its China release only two weeks after its U.S. outing. But it was given its green light by Chinese authorities just a few days ago. This is a delaying tactic that gives the film’s state-owned distributor and the underlying Hollywood studios only a minimal time to promote the release in the Middle Kingdom.
Adding to the film’s problems is the latest wave of the COVID-19 coronavirus, which has caused many roughly 30% of Chinese cinemas to close and others to cut their seating capacity to 75%.
Nevertheless, “Free Guy” has high interest levels and appreciation from audiences. Users on fan site Douban gave the film a healthy 7.8 rating on a scale of ten. Users on ticketing site Taopiaopiao gave it 8.9 out of ten. Local ticketing and data service Maoyan is forecasting that the film will achieve a gross of $75.3 million in China.