Disney and Pixar’s Luca, the first Hollywood movie to release in China in 10 weeks, opened to just $5.1 million over the weekend, coming in a distant second place behind holdover Chinese hit Raging Fire, which has been in cinemas since late July.
Directed by the late Benny Chan and starring Donnie Yen, Raging Fire added $12.2 million for a cumulative total of $145.7 million.
The muted start for Luca comes despite a favorable reception among the Chinese filmgoers who went out to see the movie. The film, directed by Enrico Casarosa, scored 9.1/10 from ticketing giant Maoyan, 8.9 from Alibaba’s Taopiaopioa and 7.3 on Douban. Yet Maoyan is projecting a career run of just $13.4 million (RMB 86.5 million), which would be on the lesser end for a Pixar picture in China.
Piracy, undoubtedly, took at least some bite out of Luca‘s potential China earnings. The movie has been widely available on Chinese piracy networks since Disney released it over Disney+ in June.
The fabled animation studio has had an up-and-down track record in the Middle Kingdom, where its nuanced approach to family filmmaking has occasionally fallen mysteriously flat. A handful of Pixar projects have connected with Chinese audiences in a huge way — such as Coco with a $189 million in 2017; or Soul, which brought in $58 million last year without much marketing support from Disney — but other juggernauts have fizzled, like Inside Out, which earned $858 million worldwide but just $15 million in China.
Holdovers filled out most of the rest of the weekend box office charts in China. Local animation Green Snake, from Beijing based studio Light Chaser Animation — which, incidentally, has strove to model itself on Pixar — added $2.8 million for a $81.7 million total. Huayi Brothers romantic drama Upcoming Summer earned $2.6 million, taking its four-week total to $54.3 million.
Raging Fire should finally be knocked off the top spot in China next Friday when Director Shawn Levy’s new action-comedy Free Guy — starring Ryan Reynolds — makes its nationwide debut. The 20th Century Studios’ sci-fi action comedy was granted a last-minute China release over the weekend.