‘Fu­ri­ous 7’ is poised for win at China box of­fice

Hit film sets na­tion’s sin­gle-day rev­enue record and may beat ‘Trans­form­ers’ haul.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Julie Maki­nen

The hit ac­tion movie “Fu­ri­ous 7” has a good shot at sur­pass­ing the all-time China box-of­fice record set last sum­mer by “Trans­form­ers: Age of Ex­tinc­tion.”

The Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures film, the lat­est in the “Fast & Fu­ri­ous” fran­chise, opened Sun­day and brought in $61.3 mil­lion in its first 24 hours alone, ac­cord­ing to film in­dus­try con­sult­ing firm Arti- san Gate­way. That’s a sin­gle-day record for the coun­try, and more than dou­ble what the fourth “Trans­form­ers” brought in on its open­ing day in June.

World­wide, “Fu­ri­ous 7” has al­ready crossed the $800-mil­lion mark, with $255 mil­lion of the to­tal com­ing from U.S.-Canada ticket sales. By com­par­i­son, “Trans­form­ers” col­lected $305.9 mil­lion in China.

China has be­come an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant source of rev­enue for U.S. stu­dios. Last year, box-of­fice rev­enue for the world’s most pop­u­lous na­tion jumped 34% to $4.8 bil­lion, help­ing the in­dus­try set a global box-of­fice

record in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the Mo­tion Pic­ture Assn. of Amer­ica.

The na­tion still has a ways to go be­fore it matches the U.S. and Canada, where movies gen­er­ated $10.3 bil­lion in ticket sales last year. But an­a­lysts project that the coun­try will sur­pass the U.S. to be­come the top box-of­fice ter­ri­tory within a few years.

Boom­ing Chi­nese ticket sales have fu­eled mul­ti­ple deals be­tween U.S. film stu­dios and Chi­nese com­pa­nies.

This month, Chi­nese film pro­duc­tion com­pany Huayi Bros. Me­dia Corp. closed a ma­jor film slate deal with pro­ducer Robert Si­monds’ new movie and tele­vi­sion stu­dio, STX En­ter­tain­ment. China’s Hu­nan TV & Broad­cast In­ter­me­di­ary Co. last month said it would give Santa Mon­ica film stu­dio Lion­s­gate as much as $375 mil­lion in pro­duc­tion fi­nanc­ing over the next three years.

“Fu­ri­ous 7,” star­ring Vin Diesel, Ja­son Statham, Michelle Ro­driguez and the late Paul Walker, won’t be fac­ing any se­ri­ous Hol­ly­wood tent-pole com­pe­ti­tion at China’s box of­fice for the next few weeks and will play through the na­tion’s three­day hol­i­day May 1-3, said Ar­ti­san Pres­i­dent Rance Pow.

The next big Hol­ly­wood re­lease, Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ul­tron” is slated to ar­rive May 12 in China, though there are a num­ber of smaller films that could present road bumps for “Fu­ri­ous 7,” in­clud­ing Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger’s “Sab­o­tage,” and the Dream­Works An­i­ma­tion film “Home.”

The “Fast & Fu­ri­ous” fran­chise has built up a sig­nif­i­cant fan base in China since the fourth film in the se­ries was re­leased in the­aters in 2009 as China’s film in­dus­try was just tak­ing off. That movie brought in $4.5 mil­lion, and the fifth movie in the fran­chise, re­leased two years later, earned $41.6 mil­lion. “Fast & Fu­ri­ous 6” took in $66.8 mil­lion in China in 2013, Pow said — nearly $5.5 mil­lion more than the new film earned in a day.

In late March, Uni­ver­sal brought Diesel, Statham and Ro­driguez to China to pro­mote the film, stok­ing in­ter­est, Pow said. The movie has also ben­e­fited from strong fan sen­ti­ment for Walker, who died in a car ac­ci­dent in 2013 while “Fu­ri­ous 7” was in pro­duc­tion. And the gen­eral growth of car cul­ture in China in re­cent years, with a boom­ing mid­dle and up­per class now hav­ing the means to pur­chase and ac­ces­sorize au­to­mo­biles, has cre­ated strong in­ter­est in car-themed films.

But whether Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties will put the brakes on “Fu­ri­ous 7” re­mains to be seen, said writer-pro­ducer Robert Cain, a long­time ob­server of China’s film in­dus­try.

“A ma­jor ques­tion ‘Fu­ri­ous 7’s’ box-of­fice bo­nanza brings up is whether the Chi­nese film au­thor­i­ties at SARFT [the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion] will deploy their mar­ket-man­age­ment tac­tics to ac­tively crimp the re­turns of up­com­ing Hol­ly­wood re­leases, in or­der to save face for lo­cally made Chi­nese films,” Cain wrote on his Chi­nafilm­biz blog.

Cain said the pow­er­ful start for “Fu­ri­ous 7” has raised ex­pec­ta­tions for “Avengers” and that one of those two ti­tles is likely to be the 2015 China box-of­fice champ.

“Up un­til last week the con­sen­sus for ’Avengers’ was for a $175 mil­lion to $200 mil­lion [gross]; now that fig­ure looks rel­a­tively unim­pres­sive,” Cain wrote. “Still, Marvel and Dis­ney should hold off on mak­ing any victory laps un­til SARFT re­veals its hand.”

De­spite be­ing in Chi­nese the­aters only one day last week, “Fu­ri­ous 7” eas­ily lapped the com­pe­ti­tion. In sec­ond place was the Chi­nese spe­cial forces film “Wolf War­riors,” di­rected by and star­ring mar­tial artist Wu Jing, which added $36.6 mil­lion to its earn­ings, bring­ing its cu­mu­la­tive gross to more than $70 mil­lion.

In the No. 3 spot for the seven days end­ing Sun­day was the TV spinoff “Let’s Get Mar­ried,” which took in nearly $20.2 mil­lion, bring­ing its to­tal gross to $44 mil­lion.

Round­ing out the top five films were 20th Cen­tury Fox’s “Kings­man: The Se­cret Ser­vice,” which has taken in $71.7 mil­lion since late March, and the Bel­gian an­i­mated film “The House of Magic” (about a cat’s ef­forts to save his adopted house­hold from a ne­far­i­ous real es­tate agent), which has earned $6.4 mil­lion to date.

Mark Schiefelbein As­so­ci­ated Press

“FU­RI­OUS 7” fans wait with posters of Ja­son Statham be­fore a pro­mo­tional event for the film in Bei­jing.

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