Chinese blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2 set for re-release, but will it end up howling at the moon?

Distributor hopes to breathe new life into flagging box office by reshowing patriotic blockbuster that took US$830 million last year

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 September, 2018, 5:33am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 September, 2018, 11:38pm

China’s highest-grossing film of all time, the nationalistic Wolf Warrior 2, will return to cinemas across the country next week as the industry tries to stimulate a flagging market after a series of box office flops.

The story of the former special forces operative who comes out of retirement to save Chinese citizens from an African war zone, made its debut in July last year and raked in 5.68 billion yuan (US$829.9 million) in the Chinese mainland and US$2.7 million in the United States.

Chinese cinema chain Dadi, which is part of the Dadi Media Group, said the film – a sequel to 2015’s Wolf Warrior – will be shown at about 200 of its theatres from Wednesday until October 19.

The month-long period includes the National Day holiday on October 1.

Yu Yusan, executive vice-general manager of Dadi Century Films Distribution, which is part of the same group, said the decision to re-release the blockbuster was driven by a slowdown in takings at the box office.

“In a slack season, rather than screening unpopular films, some cinemas would rather introduce successful old ones to attract more audiences,” he said.

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Although ticket prices for the rescreening may be lower than before (as is typically the case in China), “for cinemas, the audience size is often more important … as more visitors means more spending on drinks, snacks and other peripheral products”, Yu said.

Mainland Chinese cinemas took only about 1.3 billion yuan at the box office in the first 13 days of September, or less than 20 per cent of the takings for the whole of August.

And more than two-thirds of the September figure can be attributed to ticket sales for the Hollywood blockbuster Mission Impossible: Fallout, according to industry research firm EntGroup.

While the decision to re-release Wolf Warrior 2 was driven by commercial reasons, Yu said it was not uncommon for popular films to be rescreened, either to promote an upcoming sequel or to commemorate people or events.

For example, films starring the late Hong Kong pop star Leslie Cheung often reappeared in cinemas around the time of the anniversary of his death. The much-loved star died in a fall from a Hong Kong hotel on April 1, 2003.

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Despite its massive popularity 12 months ago, a manager from Beijing-based film distribution company Anshi Yingna, who asked not to be named, questioned how successful Wolf Warrior 2 would be a second time around.

“It’s already available on some streaming websites as far as I know,” she said. “But maybe some government agencies will organise group viewings as part of the National Day celebrations. After all, this nationalistic film suits the festivity.”

Many internet users made fun of the decision to reshow the film, with some saying the government should consider establishing “Wolf Warrior Day” and others suggesting audiences be made to stand up and sing the national anthem during the screening.

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The film’s Hollywood-style propaganda theme was a departure from the traditional patriotic films that Chinese audiences had grown used to.

Chinese martial artist Wu Jing co-wrote, directed and stars in Wolf Warrior 2, which also features American actor Frank Grillo as the villain and Hong Kong-American Celina Jade as the female lead.