Unfortunately for “No Time to Die’s” China debut, government authorities have decided that it’s currently no time for citizens to risk dying of COVID-19 at the movies and are taking extra precautions to suspend cinema operations across the country this weekend as new outbreaks occur.
Hollywood is catching a tough break in China this month. After weeks of an unofficial blackout period on foreign imports due to the patriotic National Day holiday, there are finally two major Western blockbusters in theaters in the world’s largest film market: “No Time to Die” and “Dune,” the first and third place finishers this week, respectively.
Nevertheless, their performance has been unimpressive, slammed in part by new COVID-19 outbreaks across the country that have left more than 1,400 cinemas in 14 provinces ordered shut. Closures even reached Beijing on Saturday, when certain districts called for temporary shutdowns. Together, the theaters represent over 13% of the national box office.
“No Time to Die” managed a $27.8 million opening weekend, according to data from the Maoyan ticketing platform, clocking in higher than “Dune”’s $21 million China debut the week before. It had opened Friday to sales of $8 million, again a bit more than “Dune”’s $6.45 million. The franchise’s familiarity to Chinese viewers is a point in 007’s favor.
Bond managed to slip past local favorite “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” which grossed a further $19 million. The film has now grossed a total of $857 million, making it the 2021’s highest grossing title in the world.
In its second weekend, “Dune” grossed $5 million from 13,680 screens, bringing its China cume to $32.9 million, according to estimates from its direct China distributor Legendary East.
In fourth place this week was the 2008 Japanese drama “Departures” from director Yojiro Takita, the first Japanese title to win the Oscar for best foreign language film. It opened fourth in China with $3.56 million, Maoyan data showed.
In fifth this week was patriotic omnibus film “My Country, My Parents,” earning $2.48 million. “Love After Love,” Ann Hui’s adaptation of an Eileen Chang short story, hit sixth with $1.45 million, while local drama “Wu Hai” starring Yang Zishan and Huang Xuan came in seventh with $1 million. No other films broke the $1 million mark.