After months with few significant new Hollywood releases, both “Dune” and ‘No Time to Die’ finalized their China opening dates on Sunday, officially confirming their outing in the world’s largest film market at a time when other major studio titles have been given the cold shoulder.
The two films will hit in successive October weekends. “Dune” will land on Oct. 22, day-and-date with the N. American release and its debut on HBO Max. “No Time to Die” will roar in a week after on Oct. 29, a full three weeks after its U.S. debut. The former passed Chinese censorship with significant time to spare back in July, and the latter more recently on Sept. 10.
It is certainly a happy development for Hollywood, given that big-budgeted “Dune” and “No Time to Die” will need strong global sales to turn a profit.
It’s also very welcome news to fans who have been waiting on tenterhooks to know for certain that they’ll really be able to watch two of the most locally anticipated films of the year in theaters. They’ve had reason to worry: some of the biggest Hollywood titles have unexpectedly failed to set release dates so far this summer, including “Black Widow” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” among others.
Though Chinese viewers will have access to “Dune” at the same time as those in the U.S., piracy will likely remain a significant issue for the title in the China given that it debuted this week in parts of Europe and Asia. Its openings on Sept. 16 in Taiwan and Hong Kong also means that pirated versions of the film with official Chinese subtitles are even more accessible.
Piracy could be an even bigger problem for “No Time to Die,” given that it will hit Hong Kong and Taiwan a full month before its China debut.
Nevertheless, the scheduling now on the books is in many ways one of the best possible outcomes for both Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic and the Daniel Craig actioner.
China’s patriotic Oct. 1 National Day holiday runs in the first week of October and is one of the biggest box office periods of the year. The period just before and after is marked every year by an unofficial protectionist blackout on Hollywood films, with authorities seeking to clear the playing field of strong competitors that could detract from the commercial success of the cluster of new political films that kick off the holiday.
Mid- to late- October is the earliest time a Hollywood blockbuster could expect to get into the China market in wake of that period, particularly since this year marks the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party, making it paramount that films celebrating its history and achievements attain box office glory.
By the time “Dune” lands, the political Chinese films will already have had three unobstructed weeks to rake in their share of sales. And at that point, their charm will have petered out enough for “Dune” to blast in against no real new competitors.
Villeneuve’s past films have had strong though not smashing success in China. The country was the top overseas territory for both “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049,” which grossed $15.9 million and $11.7 million there, respectively.
China is also one of the most important overseas markets for the Bond franchise, and was the highest grossing overseas territory for its last installment, “Spectre,” other than the U.K. That film, also starring Craig, made $881 million worldwide, $84 million of which came from China. China was the fourth largest oversea territory for “Skyfall,” which earned $59 million there.
This year 12 Chinese films are set to release on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, most notably “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” co-directed by heavyweights Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark and Dante Lam, and “My Country, My Parents,” an anthology film that includes the directing debut of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” star Zhang Ziyi.