‘Aquaman,’ ‘Venom’ and – Surprisingly – ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Head to China

East Asia nation looks to rebound from big box office slump

With China’s box office in an unexpected slump, the country’s film board has approved release dates for several major American movies, including the current No. 1 movie in the world, “Venom.” In a surprising turn of events, the all-Asian film “Crazy Rich Asians” will also open in the Middle Kingdom.

“Venom,” which has earned $378 million worldwide through 12 days in theaters, will be released in China on Nov. 9. The $100 million Spider-Man spinoff has bucked bad reviews to earn a strong start for Sony Pictures’ planned series of films based on the Marvel IP, and a strong opening in China could help further solidify global interest in future installments.

“Crazy Rich Asians,” meanwhile, will be released on Nov. 30, more than three months after the Jon M. Chu rom-com opened in the rest of the world and grossed $228 million worldwide against a $30 million budget. While the film made 75 percent of its gross from domestic audiences — particularly from Asian-American moviegoers hungry for representation — it also grossed $9.3 million from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Indonesia.

It remains to be seen whether the film will be subject to censorship given its content, which includes an Asian-American protagonist whose mother emigrated from China and whose father, in Kevin Kwan’s original novel, was imprisoned by the Chinese authorities.

The film also focuses predominantly on the luxurious lifestyles of Singapore’s elite, at a time when the Chinese government has tightened its control over the country’s culture. The film also comes as popular Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (“X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Iron Man 3”) made headlines when she disappeared from the public eye for three months before confessing to tax evasion in China. She was served a fine of more than $70 million.

“Crazy Rich Asians” will have its distribution handled by Huaxia and China Film Group.

Disney and Warner Bros. also received release dates for their major end-of-year tentpoles, including Disney’s “Nutcracker and the Four Realms” (Nov.2), Warner Bros.’ “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” (Nov. 16), Disney’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet” (Nov. 23) and DC’s “Aquaman” (Dec. 7).

This new slate comes as the American and Chinese box office have undergone a reversal of fortune. Domestic grosses are well on pace to beat 2016’s industry record of $11.3 billion after a 2017 in which summer totals reach an 11-year low and total grosses fell 2.7 percent year over year.

China, meanwhile, saw box office receipts from the Golden Week holiday during the first week of October fall 28 percent year-over-year. Grosses for the Middle Kingdom over the past six weeks have been sagging as Hollywood imports have been largely absent and the government has clamped down on online ticketing fees and schemes by distributors and theaters to inflate numbers, including buying tickets to their own films.

China was responsible for global box office revenue seeing a rise in 2017, countering domestic losses with a 14 percent year-over-year growth to $8.6 billion.