Box Office: ‘F9’ Races Past ‘Godzilla Vs. Kong’ In China
With $191 million after 11 days in theaters, F9 has passed the $188 million gross of Godzilla Vs. Kong to become the biggest post-pandemic Hollywood export thus far. That includes a $136 million debut weekend (from a $58 million opening day) and a big (but not terribly shocking) 85% drop to $20 million this weekend, as well as a meager $2.59 million on Monday (-75% from last Monday). Nonetheless, money is money and F9 should still zoom past Spider-Man: Far From Home ($200 million) and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw ($201 million) to be the biggest non-Marvel/DC Hollywood import since Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ($267 million).
In terms of all Hollywood flicks, a $202 million finish would put it behind only Ready Player One ($220 million), Transformers: The Last Knight ($228 million), Jurassic World 2, Venom ($269 million), Aquaman ($298 million), Avengers: Infinity War ($359 million) and Avengers: Endgame ($629 million) going back since the $393 million cume of Fate of the Furious in early 2017. So, no, it’s not going to flirt with Transformers:Age of Extinction’s $300 million cume, nor even the $228 million finish of Transformers: The Last Knight. But by any standard other than a Fast Saga flick, it’s performing up to snuff in China for a Hollywood flick.
Spitball math, but a $210 million finish representing 27% of the total still gets F9 to $778 million, or about tied with Fast & Furious 6 ($788 million). $205 million representing 32% of the total would be around $640 million. We can debate “yay” or “nay” on a Covid curve, but there’s nothing else on tap for 2021 outside of the Marvel flicks and No Time to Die that can be expected, barring a happy surprise, to get anywhere near those grosses. If James Bond 25 rakes in the bucks despite Spectre being… not great, well, that’s one more reason not to yet panic over F9’s Chinese descent.
Yes, word of mouth is lousy and yes the reviews aren’t great, but A) reviews and word of mouth are thus far better outside of China. It dropped 85% in China but an average of 52% elsewhere last weekend. In normal times its Chinese haul would have been a huge but not defining part of its robust global total. Fate of the Furious opened with $185 million (from a $68 million Friday) and earned $393 million (2.12x) or 31% of its $1.236 billion global cume in 2017. Hobbs & Shaw earned $201 million or 26% of its $760 million global cume in China from a $95 million debut (2.12x).
While a likely over/under 1.5x multiplier is bad, it’s not markedly worse than Detective Chinatown 3. That New Years weekend blockbuster, which also twisted itself in pretzels for the sake of franchise-building and retroactive continuity, opened with $398.5 million, fell 89% on weekend two and ended with “only” $685 million due to poor word of mouth. Warcraft earned “just” $225 million in China from a $90 million Wed-Thurs and $156 million Wed-Sun debut in summer 2016. Chinese audiences are entirely capable of turning their thumbs down at the latest Hollywood biggie especially in a marketplace filled with local flicks and local would-be tentpoles with or without commercially irrelevant John Cena-related off-screen controversies.
Here’s some trivia to chew on: If we view James Cameron’s Avatar ($204 million in 2010) as the start of Hollywood’s modern obsession with China, then we should note that only Avatar, Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($166 million) and Transformers: Age of Extinction ($300 million) topped the overall Chinese box office in a given year. Actually, Roland Emmerich’s 2012 topped in 2009 while Transformers topped in 2007, so you can argue that Hollywood has shaped an entire decade of global tentpole production based on China really liking Michael Bay’s uniquely weird and bonkers-bananas fantastical Transformers movies (until they didn’t).
Yes, I am concerned that viewer discontent in China for F9 will harm Fast 10. They showed up for Terminator: Genisys and X-Men: Apocalypse but didn’t bother with Date Fate and Dark Phoenix. Yet, we’re still looking at a Hollywood flick that will top $200 million in China during a time when no Hollywood flick has yet to top $100 million in 15 months. Moreover, whatever “mistakes were made” with F9, there’s nothing that can’t be done differently for Fast 10 and Fast 11. After all, is there anyone out there who so badly loathed Spectre that they aren’t looking forward to No Time to Die?