“Minions: The Rise of Gru” has been given a mainland China theatrical release date of Aug. 19, 2022. The move is a surprise given the strained current state of political and diplomatic relations between China and the U.S.
The film is produced by Universal and Illumination Entertainment. And the information was carried on Monday by Universal Pictures on its Weibo social media site in China.
“Long time no see, troublemakers! Get on the scooter, we’re back!” the posting said.
The advanced notice of less than two weeks gives the studio little time to support the promotional activities of the film’s official Chinese distributor, a phenomenon that has been a long-standing thorn in Hollywood’s cinematic relations with Chinese authorities.
But obtaining a date could also mark an end to the summer blackout period, the existence of which is rarely officially acknowledged and reserves new launch slots between mid July and mid-August for Chinese-language movies. There have been no releases of major U.S. movies in China since Universal’s “Jurassic World Dominion” nearly two months ago on June 10, 2022. “Dominion” is still on release and has accumulated a hefty $157 million, the year’s highest box office for an import title.
In the last couple of years, Chinese authorities have made an explicit link between international relations and film imports. Having frozen out Korean and Indian film imports for a period, due to diplomatic quarrels, China has now begun to allow these to resume, albeit at a trickle.
With the U.S. and China clashing over COVID’s origins, human rights, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, data security and trade sanctions, China chose last year not to allow the full quota of U.S. revenue sharing import films to enter the country.
This year, bilateral relations have worsened further with differences over Russia’s war in Ukraine, and latterly Taiwan, polarizing their leaders. After four days of military exercises designed to show its extreme displeasure over Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China on Monday said it was continuing with fresh drills around the island.
“Minions” and the “Despicable Me” franchise may have their fans in China and be a further tonic for the country’s beat-up box office.
While the first “Despicable Me” film did not have a China release, “Despicable Me 2” earned $52.9 million in 2013 and “Despicable Me 3” enjoyed a huge $158 million in 2017. The first “Minions” film in 2015 earned $68.5 million.