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In recent years, major Hollywood films have become dependent on foreign markets, such as China, to help boost their box office grosses. Which makes the recent news that films like Dolittle, 1917, and even the latest Hellboy remake, have been forced to cancel their Chinese debuts rather worrisome for the studios looking to make those films into international hits. However, the reasoning is solid, as most of the country’s movie theaters remain closed, due to the Coronavirus outbreak that’s hit the country particularly hard.
The latest crop of Hollywood films, as well as local Chinese produced films, set to open throughout February have either cancelled or postponed their plans to be released into the country’s 70,000 theaters, most of which have been closed due to the crisis. Also affected are recent award-contending films such as Jojo Rabbit and Little Women, both of which are up for Best Picture honors in this year’s Oscar race.
Not everyone is cancelling their plans though, as two major films opening in February still have their debuts scheduled as planned. Both Netflix’s Marriage Story and Paramount’s Sonic The Hedgehog are proceeding with their openings for the time being, with both films schedules to bow on February 28th. While this looks rosy for those two films, there’s still a chance that a cancellation could be issued down the line; dependent, of course, on how the Coronavirus epidemic pans out in the next couple of weeks.
As this recent turn of events announced by THR is part of a prudent response to the medical crisis that’s hit China, it’s not exactly the best news for those movies that were looking for some financial redemption in a country that’s been rather generous to some of Hollywood’s biggest underperformers. Out of the list of films already cancelling their releases, two titles stand out as films that could have used the boost: Universal’s Dolittle and Lionsgate/Millennium’s Hellboy.
As far as the Robert Downey Jr. vehicle goes, Dolittle has been projected to lose around $100 million for its studio home. Though it’s not known if that figure would change with the fact that the film has now cancelled its plans for release in China, as Downey’s Avengers cred could have pocketed a decent cushion of money to help soften the blow.
Hellboy is certainly no stranger to those sort of hopes, as it was one of the largest franchise underperformers of 2019. While it boasted an R-rating and a well-rounded ensemble of acting talents, led by Stranger Things star David Harbour as the demon with the Red Right Hand of Doom, the reboot of the Dark Horse Comics based film series couldn’t make a name for itself domestically.
Even the films that are performing rather well, like director Sam Mendes’ awards season darling 1917 are going to lose out, as medical professionals and government officials try to take the best measures possible in order to get the Coronavirus under control. And we’ll have to wait and see what sort of longer term effects this epidemic has on the box office picture of the Chinese market, as we may see more cancellations coming in future months on the box office calendar.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend, as we’ll be providing updates on this particular story as it develops.