It used to be a simple equation. Open your movie in the United States. If it was a hit there, then you made money. If not, then it didn’t. The box office for the rest of the world was either icing on the cake or a minor salve in one’s wounded pride. That’s not the case anymore. If your movie doesn’t strike a chord in the US, or even if it does, China can change the dynamics of a film financially. China is now the second largest box office in the world and being successful there has become as important as success in America. Warner Bros. has decided that China is so important to Point Break that the film will be releasing in China first, a full three weeks before it arrives stateside.
While opening in China first isn’t unheard of, it is rare and no movie has even had such a gap between the two release windows. Only Iron Man 3 and Penguins of Madagascar have opened first in China. The latter, which opened 12 days before the American release, was the previous record holder for such a distinction. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film’s Chinese co-producer, DMG, likely had a lot to do with making the release deal. For a film whose budget is reported to be somewhere around $100 million, a strong three weeks in China could make the film’s money back before it ever opens in the States. Whatever they make in the US could be pure profit.
There are a couple of other reasons this move is potentially huge for the film. First, China has regular blackout periods where western movies are not allowed to open. This gives Chinese films an opportunity to have success without being stomped on by American blockbusters. December is one of these blackout periods and Point Break’s December 3 release will be the last US film to open before the blackout. This also means Point Break won’t have to deal with the 900 lb. gorilla with a lightsaber who is going to own the December box office in the US. While the The Force Awakens opens the week before Point Break in the US, it won’t be hitting China until sometime in January due to the black out. By that point, Team Point Break will have made their money, removed their masks, and they’ll be on the beach surfing.
If this strategy is successful for Point Break, look for other studios to follow suit. If opening in China first means bigger box office, then it could make the difference between profit and loss for some films, and we know which one the studios will choose. Point Break will be in theaters for all of us on Christmas Day. Are you going to check it out?
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