China Box Office: Local Titles Regain Control, ‘Matrix’ Slumps

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“The Matrix: Resurrections” fell out of the top five chart positions at the mainland Chinese box office over the latest weekend. The top spots were reclaimed by local, holdover titles.

China Film Co.’s patriotic pandemic drama “Embrace Again” was the top film over the latest Friday to Sunday weekend, with a weekend score of $5.3 million, according to data from consultancy firm Artisan Gateway. Since Dec. 31, 2021, the film has accumulated $139 million. The previous weekend, it had taken $6.8 million in second place.

In second place over the latest session was “Fireflies in the Sun,” a Wanda Pictures-backed thriller, said to be a remake of “John Q.” It was first released in mid-December but bubbled back with a $4.4 million weekend, lifting its cumulative to $169 million.

Chinese crime thriller “G Storm” earned $3.4 million over the weekend in third place for a cumulative of $93.2 million since releasing on Dec. 31.

Comedy, “Another Me” earned $3.2 million for a cumulative of $63.8 million since its debut on Jan. 1.

Paramount’s “Paw Patrol” clung onto fifth spot for the second week. It earned $2.1 million for a ten-day cumulative of $7.5 million.

In contrast, “The Matrix: Resurrections” fell from a weak $7.5 million first place in its opening weekend to RMB11.7 or $1.85 million, according to Chinese ticketing and data firm Maoyan. The film’s cumulative now stands at RMB72.8 million ($11.5 million).

While it has just over a week to achieve the $15.2 million that Maoyan had previously forecast, “The Matrix”: Resurrections” is certain to be crushed by the crowd of local titles that will open on Tuesday Feb. 1, the first day of the Chinese New Year (aka Lunar New Year) holidays.

There are eight that will open on that date and be give an uncontested 13 days before the next titles in theaters. The holiday period has in recent years become China’s peak cinema-going season and records have repeatedly been broken.

Whether that can be achieved again depends not only on the films themselves, but also on the state of the coronavirus outbreak. In most cities, capacity is currently limited to 75% of maximum. But Chinese authorities are trying to stamp out even the smallest spike in case numbers with lockdowns and aggressive testing measures. That reflects the country’s wider COVID-zero strategy, an imperfect vaccination picture, and supreme vigilance ahead of and during the Beijing Winter Olympics, which kick off in three main venues from Feb. 4.

On the other hand, if people this year travel around the country less than normal, they may turn to the cinemas more often. Forecasters say that they expect Tier 1 and 2 cities, especially those n the less virus-hit South, to show the strongest holiday performances.

Aggregate box office for the year to date is $380 million. That is 16% down on 2021, which had recorded $451 million by this point. Chinese New Year may determine whether the market returns to growth, or plays catch-up for the rest of 2022.

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