Disney’s Mulan is off to a low-key start at China’s theatrical box office, a market where it was once expected to be a sure-fire blockbuster.
Mulan had pulled in just $4.4 million (30 million RMB) as of 5 p.m., Beijing time, Friday, according to data from local box office tracker Artisan Gateway. As of 8 p.m., local time, ticket sales had climbed to approximately $6 million (41 million RMB).
So far, Mulan appears to be selling tickets at a slightly slower pace than Warner Bros’ Tenet did last weekend. The Christopher Nolan-directed sci-fi film finished its opening weekend with $30 million.
In the COVID-19 era, a $30 million start would probably be considered encouraging in North America — Tenet‘s $20 million domestic opening was cheered stateside — but China’s box office already is capable of earnings much closer to pre-pandemic full capacity, thanks to the country’s far more effective containment of the virus. In late August, local tentpole The Eight Hundred opened to $112 million and has since climbed to $365 million.
Throughout this week, local analysts and industry insiders were expecting Mulan to debut somewhere between $30 million to $40 million. Thus far, it’s tracking to land on the low end of that range.
But word of mouth is everything in the always unpredictable China market, and the country’s leading ticketing apps — Maoyan and Alibaba’s Taopiaopiao — have yet to release their average user ratings for Mulan. Once those social scores drop later tonight, the film’s fate will be clearer.
The Disney tentpole has already weathered a torrent of ugly news internationally — and the bad press has begun to have an oblique effect within China.
Beijing authorities told major media outlets in the country not to cover Mulan in any way, according to a report Friday from Reuters. The blackout on Mulan coverage appears to be a reaction to recent international outcry over a pair of human rights scandals associated with the movie.
Reuters said no reason was provided to local media when the blackout of Mulan coverage was ordered — but the agency’s sources said they suspected it was related to the international outcry over Xinjiang.
Produced for $200 million — the most Disney has spent on any of its live-action remakes — Mulan was once expected to do gangbusters business in the Chinese market. The film is based on a beloved Chinese legend and stars, alongside relative newcomer Liu, a slew of Chinese cinema icons, including Gong Li, Jet Li, Donnie Yen and others.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios
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