James Cameron’s Avatar 2 had the bad luck of releasing in China, the world’s second-biggest film market, just as a devastating wave of COVID-19 infection was engulfing the country. Now, it’s getting a little good luck.
Beijing’s film regulators on Tuesday granted the Disney tentpole a rare release extension to run on Chinese screens for an additional 30 days, two sources in Beijing with knowledge of the decision said. The News84Media.
China’s film import system grants foreign films permission to screen in the country for 30-day blocks. Avatar 2 launched in China day-and-date with North America on Dec. 16, so its original release was set to expire on Jan. 15. The film has earned just shy of $200 million in the country, Hollywood’s best performance of the pandemic era, but much less than was originally forecast, due to the ongoing COVID outbreak.
Avatar 2 will undoubtedly see its screen share plummet when a slew of high-profile Chinese tentpoles release on Jan. 22, the first day of the week-long Chinese New Year holiday period. But even if Cameron’s blockbuster can retain a small slice of China’s massive movie exhibition outlay over the holiday, it could generate tens of millions in additional ticket revenue, insiders say. The film has boasted high social scores among the Chinese viewers who have seen it — 9.1/10 on leading ticketing apps Maoyan and Taopiaopiao and 8/10 from influential reviews page Douban — and Cameron’s event epics have a reputation for slow builds and long holds.
Film figures in Beijing contacted by THR on Tuesday said they were shocked by the Film Bureau’s late call to give Avatar 2 additional time. Traditionally, Beijing has blocked all foreign film imports during China’s important national holidays, giving the domestic industry free rein at the box office. Hollywood has long protested such release “black-outs” as anti-competitive and contrary to China’s World Trade Organization obligations — always to no avail.
“It’s a weird decision,” said one exhibition executive when asked how much screen share Avatar 2 might be expected to hold during the holiday. “We don’t know,” they added.
A representative for Disney did not respond to THR‘s request for comment.
More to come…
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