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Two long-anticipated superhero movies finally hit Chinese cinemas yesterday, but failed to set any opening records due to bad timing as this year saw a long summer of domestic film protection policies in China.
The two competing rivals -- DC Comics' Batman conclusion "The Dark Knight Rises," released by Warner Bros. and Marvel Comics' teenage reboot "The Amazing Spider-Man," released by Columbia Pictures – went head to head late Sunday night. Combined, they made about 6 million yuan (US$943,602) at the box office as many theaters offered audiences a joint viewing.
The opening day estimates show they made 62 million yuan (US$9.75 million) – Batman 28 million (US$4.4 million) and Spider-Man 34 million (US$5.35 million), - which are not necessarily bad numbers, but simply somewhat disappointing for many theater managers, China.org.cn learned.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" features 3D and 3D- IMAX versions (no 2D version) plus a shorter runtime, which mean higher prices and more screenings. "The Dark Knight Rises" only comes in 2D and IMAX plus the movie runs slightly longer. Many cinemas said it pains them to decide on screening time slots, and the screening time for these two films in particular will usually be half-half.
But the Capital Cinema's executive Yu Chao said that only after this upcoming weekend, they can have a clear idea about which one will come in first eventually.
Warner Bros. previously tried to delay Christopher Nolan's Batman debut until September to avoid it coinciding with that of "The Amazing Spider-Man." They failed. Frustrated, they then decided not to hold any opening premiere at all, but to just release the movie. The film debuted in the United States on July 20, but its box office scores suffered from the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. So far, the movie has grossed US$422 million in North America (US$941 million worldwide), ranking only behind- another superhero film- "The Avengers" this year.
Columbia Pictures held a Spider-Man ceremony on Sunday night, using videocams to let director Marc Webb, leading actor Andrew Garfield and actress Emma Stone, who actually become a real couple after shooting this film, talk with audiences in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou. The film's director praised the high definition RED Epic camera used for the film, whereas Emma Stone shied away from answering any questions relating to her romance with Garfield.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" then, released on July 3 in the United States and other markets, made US$258 million in North America and globally grossed US$697 million in total so far.
The eager Chinese market had been looking forward to welcoming several Hollywood blockbusters throughout the whole summer, but China's film authorities ordered for the safeguarding and protection of home-grown Chinese films starting at the end of June and banning all major Hollywood releases.
But as summer is coming to an end for the nation, the climax every theater manager eagerly anticipated just didn't come with the superhero movies.
Xing Yan, one of Beijing Wanda Cinema's executives, said the box office income was below their anticipations. "It's lower than the numbers from 'Titanic 3D' and 'Transformers,' and presales were not that great either. We usually don't do midnight showings on Sunday because too many people have to go into work the next morning."
Liu Hui, a manager of Beijing's UME International Cineplex, added that the previous Spider-Man movies by Sam Raimi also didn't set any records in China and The Dark Knight' had never been imported here. "China doesn't have that deep tradition and huge die-hard fanbase of American comics. That's another explanation as to why they didn't make record money." Liu also thinks the time for an explosive opening at the end of the summer film season has passed: "People have already started to lose interest."
Gao Jun, general manager of Sheng Shi New Film Distribution, estimated the two superhero movies can eventually gross over 1 billion (US$157 million) at Chinese box offices.
However, another sci-fi blockbuster, "Prometheus" directed by Ridley Scott, will join the rat race on Sept. 2 and a sequel of the very popular action movie "The Expendables" by Simon West, starring familiar faces for Chinese audiences such as Jet Li, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, is set for release on Sept. 4. China's own new releases will be frustrated to find themselves excluded from most theaters' showing schedules and many have already delayed their release dates.
Many industry insiders believed the reason why Chinese film authorities rounded up all major foreign imported films in a release-packed month, September, is to contain Hollywood influence on China's own film industry. In the first half of 2012, China's domestic films experienced a crushing defeat. The box offices grossed a total of 7.74 billion yuan (US$1.21 billion) over the past six months of which 38 foreign films raked in 5 billion yuan (US$787 million), representing 65 percent of the total.
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