China’s Record Setting New Year Box Office

If you’re looking for positive movie theater news, look no further than China. They are tearing it up over there, setting records that rival or beat those set in the United States.

The Chinese New Year box office achieved yet another milestone Wednesday, with grosses for the holiday period growing to an estimated RMB 7.78 billion ($1.2 billion). This beats the previous all-time high set during the comparable 2019 holiday (RMB 5.9B). China often outdoes itself, but the fact that 2021’s Lunar New Year frame came with Covid capacity restrictions makes the performance even more staggering.

China New Year Box Office Hits Record $1.2 Billion Over Holiday Period – Deadline

The pandemic has not had any long lasting effects on moviegoers in this country, at least. This just reinforces what we believe will happen domestically as well: moviegoers will return when they feel it’s safe enough to return and there are movies they want to see.

Add to this the opening weekend record which once belonged to Avengers: Endgame has now been surpassed by Detective Chinatown 3 in China:

Detective Chinatown 3 grossed $398 million in its opening weekend in China, which was timed to coincide with the Chinese New Year. That box office haul puts it ahead of the $357 million domestic opening weekend of Avengers: Endgame. $23.5 million of Detective Chinatown 3’s opening weekend came from IMAX showings, a record for IMAX opening weekend grosses in China. Ticket service Maoyan is projecting an eventual final gross of $750 million.

Avengers: Endgame’s Opening Box Office Record Has Been Crushed

Foreign movies this popular should be showing domestically. I’m not seeing this movie at AMC theaters playing anywhere. I realize it’s probably not dubbed, but at least it could be subtitled. A sequel this popular with Chinese moviegoers? I’m very curious. Get on it, AMC!

China requires all movies in theaters to limit movie run time to max 2 hours – Tenet needs to cut 30+ minutes

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet just hit another roadblock in China’s movie theaters: maximum run time length of two hours.

As if there weren’t enough issues complicating theatrical releases, China has announced a new barrier. While it’s allowing theaters to reopen as of July 20, that permission comes with a caveat: To limit the length of time audiences spend in auditoriums, all titles must run two hours or less.

‘Tenet’ Faces a New Challenge: China Says It’s Too Long to Play | IndieWire

Actually, I like this safety requirement. I like this for the majority of movies even without COVID-19.

As a general rule, I’ve felt most movies I’m seeing are too long. Sure, I’ve enjoyed movies that were longer than two hours, but prefer that movies look at 90 minutes as a target and if they go over, they have 30 extra minutes of buffer. The vast majority of films have stories that can be told effectively in two hours or less.

At the same time, artificial limits for films can limit a story that truly can’t be told in that amount of run time. If the story goes too long, just go the Kill Bill route and split the films up into two distinct parts and separate films. If it’s really long, then go the series route. There are any number of streaming channels that would welcome a good miniseries. If the story can be expanded beyond 8 hours, start considering it to be a TV series broken by seasons.

Films started out being around an hour in length, but that was 100 years ago. As time has gone on, movies have gotten longer and more bladder challenging. Some so long that sites like RunPee (see: Need A Bathroom Break During the Movie? Runpee to the rescue) have become necessary tools.

Back to Tenet.

What should they do to get down to two hours? A China-specific edit (The Tenet China Cut) is likely the most logical answer. Or they can skip China, but that’s a huge market they can’t really afford budget-wise to ignore. The film is about 30 minutes over, so Nolan and his editor needs to get cutting.

What do you think of this COVID-19 requirement in China? Would you like to see it imposed in the United States? I wouldn’t mind, would you?

About 5% of China Theaters Reopening

Hey, it might only be 5%, but it’s a start.

State media CGTN reported that 486 theaters were open for business on Friday. On Monday, financial publication Caixin said the number had risen to 507, representing less than 5% of all cinemas in commercial operation prior to the virus outbreak.

China Theaters Begin to Reopen as Coronavirus Threat Recedes – Variety

If we look at the timeline, China closed theaters first, about 45 days ago, so if they are starting to reopen as the virus recedes, then we’re about 45 days out in the United States from seeing the same situation occur here.

Meanwhile, in Washington state where we reside, they just put a two-week order for people in non-essential businesses to stay at home. Both of our regular jobs are considered essential, so this will have no impact on us, but just thought I’d throw that out there.

45 days. It gets better. Theaters reopening anywhere sounds like life starting to return to normal.

During China’s Current Theatrical Shutdown Why Not Offer Streaming as Alternative Screening Option?

The elephant in the world’s room at the moment is the coronavirus. The elephant in the theatrical world is the theatrical window.

Rather than delay indefinitely new movie releases, why not offer people in China the ability to stream movies at home (for a reasonable ticket price)?

I’ve been looking around for others suggesting this and it seems this idea is completely off the table. The more time that goes by that the theaters are closed, why can’t this be explored … at least temporarily?

Obviously, movies aren’t remotely important as protecting human lives, so our thoughts and prayers go out to anybody impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

We’re now going to see Hollywood getting hurt by China’s current theatrical shutdown, as the likes of Bad Boys For Life and Birds of Prey weren’t betting on a big Chinese payday. Even Dolittle was tracking for a $15 million debut when the coronavirus caused the theaters to shut down over what should have been a $1 billion-plus New Year’s weekend. Video game movies (Warcraft, Rampage, Ready Player One, etc.) have been big in China, and a continued blackout could be even more problematic for (much bigger-budgeted) Mulan and No Time to Die.

Box Office: ‘Sonic’ Races Into Record Books With $68M Debut

Collateral damage of a much lesser concern will be box office performance depending on the Chinese market where many theaters are currently shutdown, but there are other ways to release new movies — streaming — than on the big screen.

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey⭐️⭐️½ admittedly not the greatest movie (see: 30+ Birds of Prey Reviews – Doctor Robotnik vs. Harley Quinn, “Physical Disadvantages” and Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda), box office sales certainly are being impacted by the current theater closings in China.

Box office stats as of 2/19/2020 — 12 days in — the cash register still very much is ringing

I don’t understand why streaming options won’t at least be considered, given if a lot more time goes on without a vaccine being available. Yes, I realize this movie industry protects the theatrical window from streaming for 90 days or so because they believe that once that is violated, the movie theater industry will crumble.

Streaming at Home vs. The Movie Theater Experience

I don’t think it’s quite that dramatic at this point for a few simple reasons:

  1. Most people don’t have in-home theater quality TV and surround sound speaker setups
  2. Most people don’t have a bunch of people to join them as they watch a movie on the big screen. There is a social element to watching movies in the theater that is difficult to view in a smaller room and/or alone
  3. Popcorn. Sorry, microwave popcorn is not the same. Yes, you can emulate the movie theater popcorn setup affordably, but most people won’t and don’t have this available.
  4. Date night outside the home. If you want to have date night at home, you can do that any night of the week, but it’s nice to leave home and do something fun with your spouse/significant other/friends away from your home.

Sure, all of these items except the last can be replicated with an in-home system and you don’t have to be Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. On top of that, you can invite only those who don’t interrupt the movies at home. You can also pause the movies, eat whatever food you want and show movies whenever you want. There are many advantages to watching movies at home versus the theater, but I don’t think enough people have movie theater quality rooms in their homes.

Funny aside: 20 years ago we added a movie room to our home. I wired the walls with high quality sound in preparation for the ultimate surround sound system. For a few years we had the system and I watched movies in there, but it never really felt like the movie theater. I didn’t go the extra mile for the movie theater popcorn, but came about as close as possible 20 years ago to having this room of dreams. I’ve been a cutting edge tech guy in the past.

So, if you have someone like me who could have a room like this and doesn’t prioritize it over a movie theater, my guess is there are many lesser-tech folks who would rather just go out to, for no better reason than, go out.

Re-releasing the New Releases in Theaters

Maybe some of these movies can be re-released in theaters. Again, this is all a lesser concern to finding a cure and making sure human beings wherever they are in the world are protected from harm from this virus.

Informative Articles about Coronavirus

Admittedly, this is going outside the scope of this blog, but a wise person stays informed. I’ve collected some articles to learn more about coronavirus:

Let’s hope that a vaccine is created soon and this outbreak is thoroughly contained. Regardless if it’s happening in America or abroad, viruses that infect any human being anywhere are a concern that we all should agree upon working together to contain and eliminate.

Controversial Bruce Lee Portrayal In Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Tarantino Says He Won’t Recut Film For China

China blocking Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood for unknown reasons

I remember chuckling at what I believed to be a satirical portrayal of Bruce Lee in Tarantino’s ninth film, Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood ⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Lee family, particularly his daughter, Shannon didn’t appreciate the way her father was represented:

The iconic martial artist/actor features in one memorable scene during the movie (played by Mike Moh) – but the way Tarantino presents Bruce has caused some considerable uproar amongst the Lee family, including his daughter Shannon who labelled it “irresponsible”.

Tarantino won’t cut Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s Bruce Lee scene
The Bruce Lee fight that never happened in Once Upon a Time …. In Hollywood

It turns out there really was more to this portrayal than meets the eye, as Tarantino wasn’t just joking, as I thought when I saw the movie, he actually thought Bruce Lee was “kind of arrogant.”

“If people are saying, ‘Well he never said he could beat up Muhammad Ali,’ well yeah, he did. Not only did he say that, but his wife, Linda Lee, said that in her first biography I ever read. She absolutely said that.”

Bruce Lee is revered all over the world, particularly in China due to his association with Raymond Chow and the success his films enjoyed in China. It’s easy to say, “it’s just a movie” but when it comes to poking fun at the martial arts master in a movie to be shown in China, it’s definitely no joke over there.

I’m curious if the vast majority of viewers shared my interpretation of the Bruce Lee scene as humor, not intentional disrespect? I mean, after all, you have a blatant alternate reality movie showing a terrible night in American history. The movie wasn’t even tangentially about Bruce Lee. However, after reading Tarantino’s response, there is at the very least a sense of strong creative irony. Seems like there might have been a little bit of cinematic axe grinding.

Let’s also remember you can’t believe everything you read online. I read in an article that none of Quentin Tarantino’s films have been shown in China. This is totally false. Django Unchained had to be recut. A lot of films in China, not just Tarantino’s films, have needed to be edited for distribution in China.

As always, I’m curious what others think about all this. Just smoke, no fire? Did you interpret this scene with Bruce Lee as just entertainment or as an intentional shot at Bruce Lee’s reputation? I think, bearing the circumstances, it’s an interesting question for discussion.