Even though Chinese consumers are arduously calling for a boycott of Western brands concerned about potential human rights abuses in the country’s Xinjiang region, they apparently had no qualms about supporting Hollywood.
Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment’s “Godzilla vs. Kong” crushed its competitors in China this weekend with a $70 million debut, marking the biggest premiere for a foreign title in both 2020 and 2021. Its sales marked 82% of the weekend market share, coming from 42,000 screens and more than 11.8 million admissions.
Its $20.9 million (RMB137 million) opening day was also the biggest for a foreign film in the same period — more than double Tenet’s $8.7 million (RMB57 million) first day last September, the previous record-holder. “Tenet” had grossed $30 million in its first China weekend.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” is also now the foreign film with the most opening day pre-sales since cinemas shuttered due to COVID, having sold $6.88 million (RMB45 million) in tickets before its debut. It again beat out “Tenet,” which had previously been the champion with pre-sales of $3.44 million (RMB22.5 million).
China sales for the fourth film in Legendary’s “MonsterVerse” played a major role in boosting Imax to its biggest world-wide box office weekend since the start of the pandemic, with $12.4 million in global sales across 40 international markets.
Some $9.4 million of China’s total “Godzilla vs. Kong” weekend cume came from Imax screens. This marked 14% of the country’s total weekend box office and 10% of the title’s total China sales, even though Imax only accounts for 1% of Chinese screens. The gross marked Warner Bros.’ fifth highest international Imax opening of all time, and Legendary’s biggest ever in China.
Imax CEO Rich Gelfond said the performance of “Godzilla” shows that “there is real business to be done for Hollywood blockbusters” in international markets, stating: “We are particularly encouraged by the film’s strong debut in China, where audiences turned out in a big way for this Hollywood franchise.”
They did so even amidst a nationalist firestorm pushing for boycotts of other foreign products. Chinese consumers and officials have this week slammed a long list of brands including Nike, Adidas and H&M for their concern over labor practices in the cotton industry of Xinjiang, a region where Beijing denies any wrongdoing but critics and U.S. officials say its policies are perpetrating a genocide.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” won’t open in North American in theaters and on streaming until Wednesday, March 31, five days after its China debut. Chinese cinemas are still capped at 75% capacity as a virus prevention measure.
The past two installments of the MonsterVerse franchise have made more money in China than in the U.S. The first film “Godzilla” grossed $77.6 million, back when the country had far fewer screens. Its sequel “Kong: Skull Island” earned $168 million in the mainland, $200,000 more than in North America. The third 2019 film “Godzilla: Kong of the Monsters” grossed $135 million in China, $25 million more than in the States.
Data from industry tracker Maoyan currently predicts total sales for “Godzilla vs. Kong” of $141 million, which would make it the franchise’s second most successful in China.
“Godzilla”’s closet competitor this weekend was the holdout local comedy “Hi, Mom,” which brought in a further $3.62 million, bumping its total cume since February up to a massive $821 million. Just behind it was the re-release of James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster “Avatar,” which grossed $3.46 million over its second weekend. The Andy Lau-starring “Endgame” hit fourth with $1.93 million.
Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon” squeaked past local hit “Detective Chinatown 3” to come in fifth with $992,000, just $49,000 more than the latter. The Holocaust-set Russian, Belarusian and German co-production “Persian Lessons,” which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival last year, was seventh this week, earning a further $828,000 million to bring its China cume thus far up to $3.5 million.
After a month in theaters, Warner Bros.’ “Tom and Jerry” had essentially no box office to speak of. It has grossed a low $15.9 million (RMB104 million) in China so far.