As Free Guy cleaned up at the domestic box office for the second weekend in a row, another Disney film was making waves on the other side of the globe. Following a strict blackout of foreign films being released in China, a tradition imposed by Beijing during peak summer months to bolster their local film industry (an annual practice that saw even stricter limits this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party’s founding July 1st), Disney Pixar’s Italian based animated hit Luca got to finally be seen on the big screen in China.
Luca earned $5 million in its opening weekend, a strong opening with little precedent. The summer box office in China is always a bit unpredictable, with the foreign film blackout and rampant piracy causing headaches for US produced films. However, the Chinese box office can be unexpectedly lucrative, the most cited example being Disney Pixar’s Coco earning a mind-boggling $157.3 million in 2017 in China, over $5 million more than it earned in the United States. Compare that with Disney’s Frozen, a monster hit that earned over $400 million in the US and only managed a measly $48.2 million in China, however the sequel, Frozen 2, stirred up $122.3 million at the Chinese box office. The point is clear, the box office in China is very unpredictable, especially with a worsening pandemic (due to delta variant) and a stricter emphasis on locally produced films.
With all of that said, Luca’s debut looks promising. It is on par with Disney Pixar’s Christmas release of Soul, which opened to $5.5 million in China, eventually settling with a $56 million box office total. Both Soul and Luca were released exclusively on Disney+ in the US, without any domestic theatrical release.
Disney films in China often grow their weekly box office numbers in the first few weeks, unlike in the US where a film is declared a hit or flap based solely on its opening weekend numbers. How far will Luca’s box office grow? It is unclear, but there does not seem to be much competition anytime soon.
The current US box office champion Free Guy, will debut in China next weekend, but there are no indications that either film will interfere with the other’s box office performance. We will be tracking both films next weekend and will keep you updated. With Disney releasing so many of their films on Disney+ this year, due to covid, China is the only opportunity for many of these films to make any serious box office fortunes. Luca has been a streaming and merchandising bonanza for Disney Pixar this summer, here is hoping that translates to a receptive audience on the other side of the globe.