“Barbie” Opens in Fifth Place at China Box Office, While “Oppenheimer” Awaits Release Date


In China, Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” movie didn’t enjoy the anticipated box-office dominance as it faced stiff competition from local Chinese blockbusters. Despite the considerable fanfare surrounding its release, the Warner Bros. comedy-fantasy struggled to make a mark, earning only $670,000 (RMB 4.8 million) on its opening day and landing in fifth place among the day’s top-grossing films. It appears that the allure of Barbie’s pink world couldn’t outshine the popularity of several Chinese hits currently playing in theaters.

Meanwhile, Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated film “Oppenheimer” has cleared China’s censorship hurdles, but an official release date has yet to be assigned. As the film awaits its debut, industry insiders speculate that it might take at least another month before it hits Chinese screens.

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This trend of Hollywood films facing challenges in the Chinese market is not limited to “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” In recent times, Hollywood movies have been earning significantly less in China compared to the pre-pandemic era. For example, Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” struggled in its opening weekend, coming in third place behind two popular Chinese films that held their ground at the box office.

Despite the steady flow of Hollywood films into Chinese cinemas, total ticket sales for U.S. movies during the first half of 2023 have plummeted to just $592 million, marking a drastic 69 percent decline from the $1.9 billion earned during the same period in 2019, before the pandemic disrupted the industry. In contrast, Chinese-made films are thriving, with ticket revenue for local titles reaching an impressive $2.8 billion during the first half of the year, representing a remarkable 27 percent increase compared to the equivalent period in 2019.

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As “Barbie” faced challenges on its opening day, Chinese tentpole films continued to perform exceptionally well. “Wonder Family,” an action comedy from FunAge Pictures, raked in $4.6 million in sales by 12 p.m., garnering significant audience interest. The first installment of the “Fengshen Trilogy,” a historical fantasy directed by Chinese filmmaker Wuershan and often dubbed “China’s answer to Lord of the Rings,” secured second place with around $2.4 million in earnings. “Fengshen” had a strong debut on Thursday, earning $7.5 million and receiving positive word of mouth. The animated hit “Chang An” followed in third place on Friday, accumulating $2.1 million in sales and reaching a total of $128 million in box-office revenue. Additionally, the MMA drama “Never Say Never” earned about $1 million during the first half of the day, adding to its total of $239 million.

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Overall, while Hollywood films may be facing challenges in the Chinese market, local Chinese blockbusters continue to attract audiences and dominate the box office, reflecting the dynamic landscape of the film industry in the world’s second-largest movie market.