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The Saved-By-China Club: Hollywood Movies Which Grossed More in China Than in the US/Canada

Posted on the 01 September 2015 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

The center of the movie universe is shifting. Before long, China’s box office receipts will surpass the United States. It already happened for the first time on a month-by-month basis earlier this year when China’s combined box office take for the month of February was $10 million higher than that of the United States. Even more impressive, China managed that with mostly home grown product since no Hollywood movie was in the top 5 grossing films of the month.  The country is going to keep having good months like that. At its current rate of growth, we’ll soon reach a point where China sells more movie tickets year round than the United States and Canada combined.

So, the list of movies which gross more in China than domestically (i.e., in the U.S./Canada) is going to keep growing. The latest example is Terminator: Genisys, which is off to an 8-day start of $82.8 million in China, thus threatening to become the first film in history to reach $100 million in China without having also reached that point domestically. That’s a pretty significant milestone, but this “bigger in China than back at home” trend is still relatively new. Beyond that, China’s box office totals can often be misleading since Hollywood studios generally only get around a 25% cut of the country’s ticket sales. As such, it is always preferable for a Hollywood movie do better in the US/Canada than anywhere else because that’s where the studios get the biggest percentage of ticket sales, upwards of 60% in some special cases.  There’s also the increasingly tricky problem of currency exchange rates.

Still, with China’s film market forever booming more and more Hollywood movies are thought to have been saved by China, but that’s not always true, at least not if you define “saved” as “helped the studio turn a profit.” However, if the boost is big enough it can lead to a sequel being greenlit, such as Pacific Rim 2 and the ever-looming chance of a Terminator: Genisys sequel. Plus, as of late some movies were doing so well domestically they didn’t really need saving.

Here’s the overall list:

1) Furious 7


  • Production Budget: $190m
  • China: $390m
  • US/Canada: $351m
  • Worldwide: $1.51 billion

That set the record for highest-grossing film in China’s history.

2) Seventh Son


  • Production Budget: $95m
  • China: $27m
  • US/Canada: $17m
  • Worldwide: $110m

Don’t really think we can call this one “saved.”  China’s contribution to the worldwide box office simply made the overall financial failure slightly less embarrassing.

3) Transformers: Age of Extinction


  • Budget: $210m
  • China: $320m
  • US/Canada: $245m
  • Worldwide: $1.1 billion

That’s a franchise low for domestic gross but franchise high in China.

4) Expendables 3

expendables 3

  • Budget: $90m
  • China: $72m
  • US/Canada: $39m
  • Worldwide: $206m

The producers blamed the poor domestic performance on piracy, but that didn’t seem to have much of an effect in China.

5) Need for Speed


  • Budget: $66m
  • China: $66m
  • US/Canada: $43m
  • Worldwide: $203m

Based upon China’s love of the Fast & Furious franchise, it’s not really surprising to see them also embrace a fellow car-chase/race movie like Need for Speed.

6) Escape Plan


  • Budget: $50m
  • China: $40m
  • US/Canada: $25m
  • Worldwide: $137m

China still loves Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, more so than we clearly do considering that Escape Plan, Expendables 3 and (eventually) Terminator: Genisys belong on this list.

7) Brick Mansions


  • Budget: $28m
  • China: $29m
  • US/Canada: $20m
  • Worldwide: $68m

This was like China’s Fast & Furious appetizer, released a year before Furious 7 and advertised as one of Paul Walker’s final movies.

8) Pacific Rim


  • Budget: $190m
  • China: $111m
  • US/Canada: $101m
  • Worldwide: $411m

At the risk of stating the obvious, without China Pacific Rim 2 would not be happening right now.

9) Cloud Atlas


  • Budget: $102m
  • China: $21.7m
  • US/Canada: $21.1m
  • Worldwide: $130m

Again, don’t think we can really call this a movie which China “saved,” not after you look at the budget and worldwide gross.  Surely, the Wachowskis would rebound with their next movie…


10) Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending

  • Budget: $176m
  • China: $44m
  • US/Canada: $47m
  • Worldwide: $183m

Ah, nevermind.  No rebound for the Wachowskis.

11) RoboCop


  • Budget: $100m
  • China: $50m
  • US/Canada: $58m
  • Worldwide: $242m

Thanks to its international performance, there was brief talk of a potential RoboCop 2, but at last check that’s not going to happen.

Not Quite Yet

12) Terminator: Genisys

Terminator Genisys Smile

  • Budget: $155m
  • China: $82m
  • US/Canada: $89m
  • Worldwide: $409m

Bonus: Not So Much in China, But Oddly Huge in South Korea…

13) Begin Again

Begin Again

  • Budget: $8m
  • South Korea: $25m
  • US/Canada: $16m
  • Worldwide: $63m

Not surprisingly, this list indicates China embraces visual feasts which transcend language barriers, particularly if those films shoehorn in some Asian characters or settings.  Additionally, some of the older actors we’ve turned on are still welcomed in China.

Source: BoxOfficeMojo

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