Once again Chinese audiences have stepped up to support a Hollywood movie that badly needed an international boost, in this case the $155 million budgeted Terminator Genisys. The franchise reboot, which sees the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the 31 year-old sci-fi series after a 12-year hiatus, took in $26 million (166.1 million RMB) in its first day of release on Sunday, including midnight screenings. That single-day total nearly matched the $26.1 million the film earned in its first three days of release in North America, and bested the grosses for its entire multi-week theatrical runs in South Korea ($22.4 million), Japan ($21.3 million) and Russia ($21.1 million), which had been the film’s three best overseas territories up until Sunday.
‘Terminator Genisys’ release date and signature catchphrase grace the side of a Chinese office tower.
With just $89 million in domestic coin and another $235 million overseas prior to Sunday, the breakeven prospects for Terminator Genisys financiers Paramount and Skydance were looking iffy up until this weekend. While the film has performed well overseas, it hadn’t brought in enough revenue to assure profits. But China, with its huge, rapidly growing cinema industry and hearty appetite for Hollywood fare, has become a sort of haven of second chances for films that falter in their North American and European releases. Owing to its size and rapid growth, and its love for cinematic spectacle, China represents a new sort of hedge for Hollywood, a market that will sometimes—though certainly not always—redeem underperforming tent-poles.
Movies that have fared exceedingly well in China include Need for Speed, Escape Plan, Pacific Rim and Cloud Atlas, all of which scored China grosses that were much higher than their North American results.
Even though this, the fifth film in the Terminator franchise, had to wait out nearly the entire 60 day foreign film blackout period before it could open in the PRC, the film was still expected to open well there, for three main reasons:
1. First, Terminator Genisys has Arnold Schwarzenegger, who remains a box office hero in China years after his popularity faded in most other territories. His aforementioned Escape Plan, which he top-lined with fellow sexagenarian Sylvester Stallone, earned $41 million in China—more than a third of its overseas total—compared to just $25 million in North America. The new Terminator release benefitted from Schwarzenegger’s visit during which he appeared on The Voice of China with Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou, and also on air with Betty Zhou, a TV hostess who is often called “China’s Prettiest Bilingual Basketball Anchorwoman and Game Interpreter”.
‘Terminator Genisys’ director Allan Taylor, Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore, Arnold Schwarzenegger and TV hostess Betty Zhou in Shanghai.
2. Second, China is also a prime territory for movies featuring robots, disasters, and machines, all of which Terminator Genisys offers in generous quantities. Furious 7 and Transformers 4 are the highest and third highest grossing films, respectively, in Chinese box office history.
3. Even though it debuted on a less than ideal Sunday opening day, Terminator Genisys was the very first Hollywood movie released after a two month drought of foreign blockbusters, and was thus met with tremendous pent-up demand for big budget spectacles. The last such film to appear in China’s theaters was Jurassic World, which had vacated PRC theaters when it finished its run in early July.
Terminator Genisys gets the added benefit of two full weeks without competition from other Hollywood releases. Paramount’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation will be the next to arrive, on September 8th, followed by Universal’s Minions on September 13th and Sony’s Pixels on September 15th.