With a $9.64 million gross on Wednesday, its 16th day of release, China’s first big-budget, outer-space sci-fi epic The Wandering Earth has earned a remarkable $603.7m thus far. That makes the film into the second-biggest grosser for any movie released in China, behind the $854m cume (in the summer of 2017) of Wolf Warrior 2. Both films feature Ju Wing, so I have to imagine at least someone in Hollywood is trying to entice him for at least a supporting role in an internationally-friendly action-adventure franchise flick. Heck, if I’m Vin Diesel, I’m calling Mr. Wing yesterday about joining the fourth xXx movie.
Unless it crashes hard today, it should pass Incredibles 2 ($608 million in 2018) to become the tenth-biggest single-territory grosser of all time. At the moment, it sits behind only the (North American, unless otherwise noted, and not accounting for inflation) single-territory grosses of Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($620m in 2017/2018), The Avengers ($623m in 2012), Jurassic World ($652m in 2015), Titanic ($658m counting reissues), Avengers: Infinity War ($677m in 2018), Black Panther ($700m in 2018), Avatar ($760m in 2009/2010), Wolf Warrior 2 ($854m in China in 2017) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($937m in 2015/2016).
Like The Mermaid and Detective Chinatown 2 before it, the New Years giant is essentially playing like a “normal” Chinese biggie in terms of legs, which means it might end up closer to North American total of Avengers: Infinity War ($677 million) than the domestic finish for Avatar ($760m). There is a case to be made that Wolf Warrior 2, which opened in the middle of the summer as opposed to the crowded New Years holiday week, is the Chinese equivalent of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Namely, that the variables that led to its sky-high success cannot be easily replicated, and that its grosses are so above-par (and above any other respective release) that it doesn’t really work as a fair comparison point.
Even with everything aligning in its favor, the kid-friendly, patriotic sci-fi fantasy may still end up earning over/under $180 million less than the ultraviolent, nationalistic war actioner. Even when adjusted for inflation, Star Wars: The Force Awakens sold more tickets in North America than any movie since Titanic 18-years prior. Heck, it sold more domestic tickets than any movie since the first Star Wars aside from Titanic and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. We’ll see how well Wandering Earth (which will be in its third weekend) and Alita: Battle Angel (which opens in China on Friday) can coexist.
Tracking suggests a $55 million launch for Fox’s $170m-budgeted sci-fi fantasy, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised by a $60m-plus number (and decent word-of-mouth) for the Robert Rodriguez/James Cameron release. But that’s for another day. For the moment, the Frant Gwo-directed Wandering Earth, based on Lui Cixin’s short story, is, until Captain Marvel does its thing, the year’s biggest global grosser and has earned a surprisingly robust $4m in North America. If it ends up closer to $650m than $700m in China, then the likes of Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars Episode IX might have a shot at displacing it as the year’s biggest single-territory grosser.