Marvel’s release of its trailer for Avengers: Infinity War has set the internet abuzz with fervent anticipation for the movie, and nowhere more so than in the Peoples Republic of China.
Three big tent-pole movies, one of them Chinese and two from Hollywood, are current favorites among industry observers who are speculating as to which picture will be China’s biggest hit in 2018. The stakes are high since the winner in this race will probably collect at least $500 million in box office receipts in the Middle Kingdom alone, and even $1 billion in Chinese theatrical revenue is not inconceivable, given local hit Wolf Warriors 2’s $850 million gross in China this past summer.
The three films—Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, Universal’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and Edko’sMonster Hunt 2—are all sequels to films that were big hits in China in recent years. Each has certain advantages, and in some cases disadvantages, that will determine their ultimate fates on China’s 50,000+ movie screens.
Since all three pictures benefit from enormous pre-awareness and audience anticipation, marketing and critics’ reviews won’t have much impact. Much more important are the films’ release dates and the relative strength of their post-release word-of-mouth.
As a local-language film that is the follow-up to China’s previous record-holder (prior to Wolf Warriors 2), Monster Hunt 2 seems most likely to seize the crown as China’s number one movie next year. It has a primo Chinese New Year release slot on February 16th, the best time of year for a film to open in mainland multiplexes. On the other hand Monster Hunt will also face huge competition from the likes of The Monkey King 3: Land of Beauty and a slew of other openers looking to take a bite out of the massive holiday box office pie.
Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War should also gobble up lots of box office pie when it opens on May 4th. Its predecessor, the 2015 Russo Brothers-directed Avengers: Age of Ultron, still holds the record for a superhero movie in China despite lots of subsequent pretenders to its throne. The $240 million thatUltron earned is an easy target for Infinity War to surpass, and the new film will almost certainly test the upper limits of what’s possible for a superhero movie in China.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will follow the 2015 hitJurassic World which, at a $228 million total, came close to matching Age of Ultron’s ultimate China gross. What could trip up the Universal action-adventure thriller is that it will be up against the World Cup, and Incredibles 2, and possibly also Marvel’s Ant-Man. All three of the Hollywood movies’ releases in China could be delayed by China’s summer blackout season, which usually starts in late June, though Disney’s Pixar unit’s Incredibles 2 will most likely be granted a customary waiver from the blackout since it’s an animated film.
And there’s always another possibility: that an unexpected sleeper hit will emerge that steals the thunder of all of these pictures. That’s exactly what happened with Wolf Warrior 2this year when it out-grossed the first Wolf Warrior movie by a margin of nearly 10 to 1.
In any case, none of the Hollywood movies’ China dates have been set in stone. Final release dates will be set by the country’s film authorities next year.