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This weekend sees the release of Pacific Rim Uprising, a somewhat unlikely sequel to Guillermo del Toro's 2013 film, Pacific Rim. Despite being a blockbuster about giant robots fighting giant monsters, the original film was a disappointment at the domestic box office and would have lost money if it hadn't found its audience overseas. Fortunately, the first movie did make that money, and we now get more Jaeger versus Kaiju action. A big part of Pacific Rim's international success came from China, which is where Pacific Rim Uprising will need to make its own profit.
Guillermo del Toro's original film had a massive budget of $190 million, but only made $102 million domestically. The overseas audience significantly helped the film, though, bringing in $309 million, with $112 million of that coming from China alone. This underscores the importance of the growing Chinese box office, and according to the Los Angeles Times, the sequel will again be counting on China to drive its success. The split between foreign and domestic numbers could be even more weighted towards the foreign box office for Steven DeKnight's sequel film.
Uprising is expected to open domestically with only $25 million to $30 million over the weekend, a little down from the original's $37 million opening bow. That may be enough to finally unseat Marvel's Black Panther from the throne domestically, but it is certainly not enough on a budget of around $155 million. But the Chinese box office is continuing to grow and could prove even more of a boon to the franchise this time around. The box office in China grew 13% from 2016 to 2017 to $8.47 billion, and Uprising will be counting on that growing moviegoing audience to drive it to profitability. It is fascinating how domestic box office is no longer the make or break factor for these worldwide releases. As attendance continues to decline in North America, the Chinese box office is only growing and will become increasingly important for blockbuster success.
Uprising has a few other things going for it too that may or may not make an impact on the box office. The film has a shorter runtime than its predecessor, so theaters may be able to cram in more showings. Plus, there is the pivot to a new character and star for this film. While Star Wars isn't as much of a phenomenon in China as it is here in the states, I suspect that John Boyega is a more recognizable face to most moviegoing audiences than Charlie Hunnam.
Early reviews are in for Uprising and they are pretty mixed so far, with the film seemingly improving on it predecessor in some ways while taking a step back in others. Overall though, it still sounds like a lot of fun, which is what you really want a giant robot movie to be. Pacific Rim Uprising is in theaters this Friday, March 23.