Chinese Rambo shoots his way to box office crown, lifting country’s ticket sales from doldrums

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 10:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 August, 2017, 10:22am

Wolf Warrior 2, the Chinese action blockbuster that this week became mainland China’s highest-grossing movie of all time, gave the country’s box office a much-needed kick, lifting receipts from their doldrums in the first week of summer holidays.

The movie, about a maverick Chinese soldier who rescued aid workers and locals in Africa from American-led mercenaries, has raked in a record 3.7 billion yuan in the two weeks since its July 27 release. For the week that ended August 6, Wolf Warrior 2’s box office receipts were 2.15 billion yuan, or 77 per cent of the combined ticket sales of the country’s 10 biggest movies during the same period, according to Tuopu’s data.

The movie could possibly top 5.5 billion yuan (US$824 million) during its entire scheduled release, according to a forecast by Maoyan, one of China’s largest online ticketing platform. That would catapult Wolf Warrior 2 ahead of Avatar’s US$760 million, just behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ US$936 million to claim the second largest spot in the world’s history of box office for a single territory.

The movie’s unexpected success has given the summer movie season a much-needed kick start, pushing July’s ticket sales to 5 billion yuan.

Box office sales may increase 12 per cent this summer, rising to 30 per cent during the third quarter with the scheduled released of Hollywood blockbusters Dunkirk, Spiderman: Homecoming, and War for the Planet of the Apes., said Hua Chuang Securities’ analyst Xie Chen.

“The unexpected success of Wolf Warrior 2 has stimulated hopes of a turnaround in the movie industry,” said Huang Jing, an analyst for China Development Bank Securities.

China’s stock market has reacted with enthusiasm, with the shares of movie studios, distributors and ticket sales platforms soaring on Wolf Warrior 2’s popularity.

Shares of Alibaba Pictures Group, whose taopiaopiao ticket platform is the movie’s exclusive online distributor, have risen 9 per cent in Hong Kong since the movie’s release, jumping to a four-month high on Tuesday. Alibaba Group Holdings, the platform’s parent, is owner of the South China Morning Post.

Shares of Beijing Jingxi Culture & Tourism, one of the main distributors, soared 35 per cent since the movie’s release two weeks ago. Beijing Jetsen Technology Co., one of the co-producers of the movie, rose 6 per cent in the same period.

Still, “one swallow doesn’t make a summer,” said China Development Bank’s Huang. “The overall market is slow.”

China’s ticket sales grew 10 per cent in the first half of this year, the lowest six-month growth in at least five years. The movie industry hasn’t regained the 30 per cent surge in the previous five years, due to a flood of subpar offerings, and a government crackdown on bogus box office statistics and subsidies.

Wolf Warrior 2 performed 16-fold better than The Founding of an Army, Hong Kong director Andrew Lau Wai-keung’s paean released on the same day in time for the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army.

Huang said the investor sentiment for the entertainment and media sector has “warmed up” in the short term, but it may be a “temporary boost”.

The overall regulatory censorship of film and television content will still be tightly controlled, as the government is anxious to maintain political and social stability before the Communist Party selects its leadership ranks this autumn.

“The surge in the sector can’t be sustained,” she said.