"Cloud Atlas,” the pricey and sprawling adventure tale from Lana and Andy Wachowski, is surpassing its North American haul at the Chinese box office.
As of Thursday, “Cloud Atlas” had taken in $26.8 million with a few days left in its run in China, nearing its overall North American total of $27.1 million. Since opening on Oct. 26, it has grossed $113 million worldwide, $86 million of that coming from foreign markets.
Beating its U.S. box office total in China is both a positive and a negative. While the China figure is pretty good — and will make that country by far the most lucrative market for the film — the film was a major disappointment in the U.S., where it opened to less than $10 million.
It is, however, the latest evidence of China's increasing importance at the global box office.
“Over the next couple of years, I’m sure we’ll see grosses in China begin to match or exceed North American grosses more frequently," BoxOffice.com vice-president and senior analyst Phil Contrino told TheWrap. "The growth in that market is unbelievable.”
The independently financed "Cloud Atlas" had a $102 million production budget and was co-directed by the Wachowskis(“The Matrix”) and German filmmaker Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run"). Based on the novel by David Mitchell, it's an ambitious adventure that simultaneously tells multiple stories throughout the past, present and future in order to explore how individuals' actions affect others. It stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw and Xun Zhou, among others in multiple (and often unrecognizable) roles.
"Cloud Atlas" has been generally well-reviewed in China, where its spiritual message seems to have resonated. It might have done even better at the box office there, had it not gone up against "Skyfall" and the domestic blockbuster "Journey to the West." Chinese film officials and censors excised almost 30 minutes" from the film's 172-minute running time — mostly sex and violence — prior to the film's debut in Beijing.
The China figure — and the fact that it could add another $15 million to $20 million from France, Japan and a handful of countries where it has yet to open — moves it closer to profitability. Its biggest markets other than China and the U.S. have been Russia ($17 million), Germany ($12 million) and Brazil and Italy (both $4.7 million).
Warner Bros distributed “Cloud Atlas” in the U.S. while the foreign rights were pre-sold piece-meal to finance the film. Chinese distributor Dreams of Dragons Pictures is handling it there.
For the record: An earlier version of this story misstated the "Cloud Atlas" box office in China as $28.6 million.