How sci-fi epic film The Wandering Earth powered the Chinese box-office to historic global record

Surendhar MK

Mar 01, 2019 12:03:43 IST

Chinese sci-fi epic The Wandering Earth has set the mainland box-office on fire with its humongous theatrical revenue of 4.4 billion RMB ($657 million), making it the second highest-grossing film of all-time in the world's second-largest movie market. It is now the second film ever in the history of Chinese cinema to cross the 4 billion mark in local currency after the 2018 action blockbuster The Wolf Warrior 2, which was the fastest movie to cross 2 billion, 3 billion, 4 billion and 5 billion in RMB.

The Wandering Earth released on Chinese New Year's Day on 5 February and is directed by Frant Gwo. Wu Jing, who starred in and directed The Wolf Warrior 2, plays a significant role in The Wandering Earth too. Referred to as the Spring festival in mainland China, New Year holiday span, which lasts for a week, is considered the most lucrative period for Chinese box-office and this year, nearly eight local films (2017 had six films) contended at the ticket window.

In fact, The Wandering Earth occupied only the fourth spot with the pre-sales on 4 February with a decent $9.7 million. On 5 February, Crazy Aliens, Pegasus, and The New King of Comedy came in at first, second, and third positions at the daily box-office chart on the opening day of the week-long festival and The Wandering Earth was at fourth place with 188 million RMB ($28 million). After the wide outspread of word-of-mouth, there's no stopping the box-office prowess of The Wandering Earth, which is tipped to be China's first attempt at a big-budget sci-fi spectacle.

 How sci-fi epic film The Wandering Earth powered the Chinese box-office to historic global record

Poster of The Wandering Earth. Image from Facebook.

While The Wandering Earth climbed to the second spot at the daily box-office chart on 6 February, it quickly moved to the top on 7 February and remained unrivaled at the same position for 15 days until 21 February before the James Cameron production Alita: Battle Angel replaced it on 22 February when it landed in the PRC cinemas. The Wandering Earth continued to dominate the worldwide box-office for two consecutive weeks and emerged on top of the global chart for the weekend ending 10 and 17 February.

On 5 February, Lunar New Year's day, the mainland box-office recorded unprecedented ticket sales with an estimated total of 1.43 billion RMB ($212 million), which is nearly 12% more than 2017. It's a new global record for single-day box-office earnings in a single market. In one week, The Wandering Earth comfortably crept past the 2 billion RMB mark ($294.7 million) and became the Spring festival champion. On 17 February, The Wandering Earth, with a whopping cumulative total of 3.7 billion RMB, surpassed the box-office takings of 2017 Lunar New Year winner Operation Red Sea (3.65 billion RMB) in local currency.

Netflix has already secured international streaming rights to The Wandering Earth and will translate it to 28 languages to present the blockbuster to more viewers. “With its high-quality production and story-telling, we believe that The Wandering Earth will be loved by Sci-Fi fans around the world,” said Jerry Zhang, Manager of Content Acquisition at Netflix, in a statement.

Director Frant Gwo, in a statement, said, “Audiences from over 190 countries will soon meet The Wandering Earth on Netflix. I am glad that our movie can reach to people from different parts of the world. This is a movie created for the Chinese audience around the world, and it has been positively received since its premiere, we are very excited about it."

Made on an estimated budget of $50 million, The Wandering Earth had been in the making for nearly two years with almost 3,000 conceptual designs, and 10,000 custom-made special props, and 2,000 special effects shots. Now, with its colossal box-office revenue of 4.4 billion RMB ($657 million), The Wandering Earth has powered the mainland box-office to a historic single month global record in February. Pocketing nearly 11 billion RMB ($1.65 billion) in February, the PRC ticket window has set a new world record for the biggest single month box office earnings, supplanting its own 2018 record when it accrued an incredible total of 10.15 billion RMB ($1.57 billion) during the same period.

One of the many records shattered by The Wandering Earth includes becoming the top-earning film in IMAX in China by uncrowning 2017 global smash Avengers: Infinity War. Other Spring festival releases such as Crazy Alien (2.18 billion RMB) and Pegasus (1.68 billion RMB) have also contributed well to the global single-month box-office record of the Asian nation. Alita: Battle Angel, which became the first import film to land in China after the traditional blackout period in February, is already setting the cash registers ringing with an estimated running total of 571 million RMB ($85.48 million).

While it is highly unlikely for The Wandering Earth to unseat The Wolf Warrior 2's massive lifetime total of 5.67 billion RMB ($854 million) with new releases such as How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and the Oscar award-winning Green Book landing on 1 March, the film has surely provided a shot in the arm of industry stakeholders who were disappointed with the Middle Kingdom's January box-office takings of 3.36 billion RMB ($499 million), the lowest earnings since 2015.

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Updated Date: Mar 01, 2019 12:03:43 IST