“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” is the latest big Hollywood movie to bomb in China, earning just $2.3 million over its opening weekend. It comes on the heels of “The Flash” earning just $25 million since opening three weekends ago as well as “The Little Mermaid” earning just $3.7 million after a month in theaters.
Like “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in 2018, it would appear that “Indiana Jones 5” was a domestic-skewing IP sell, especially with the brand mostly dormant since “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” in 2008, with a less-than-hoped overseas appeal. None of the previous “Indiana Jones” films played in China, which means there’s no generational nostalgia for the brand or Harrison Ford’s marquee character.
It’s one more costly example of how Chinese audiences are showing a preference for homegrown movies over Hollywood tentpoles, a conundrum for studios that spent the 2010s counting on China as a growth market.
Even “Fast X” earned $139 million, well below the $391 million totals of “Furious 7” and “Fate of the Furious” as well as noticeably below the $200 million-plus totals of “Hobbs and Shaw” and “F9.” “Rise of the Beasts” has earned $85 million, far below the $171 million gross of “Bumblebee,” the $228 million total for “Transformers: The Last Knight” and the trendsetting $300 million total for “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
The only franchise flicks of late getting anywhere near pre-COVID predecessors are “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” ($88 million versus $99 million for the sequel in 2017) and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” which has earned $50 million compared to $62 million for “Into the Spider-Verse” in 2018.
Meanwhile, China’s own “Lost in the Stars” is soaring. The homegrown romantic myster thriller earned almost as much in China in its second weekend of release ($117 million) as “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” earned ($130 million) in its global opening weekend. That Fri-Sun gross is up 67% from the film’s $70 million Fri-Sun debut and a record in China for a non-opening weekend.
The Chinese adaptation of Russian filmmaker Alexey Korenev’s 1990 film “A Trap for the Lonely Man,” which was itself adapted from the Robert Thomas stage play, follows a woman (Janice Man) who disappears while on an overseas holiday with her husband (Zhu Yilong) only to reappear just as the search is nearing its grim end. However, the husband refuses to accept that his wife has returned and argues that the woman is an imposter.
It has now earned $317 million in just under two weeks, already passing the global total of “The Flash.” The picture earned $37 million on Sunday, and at this rate, it could join China’s “Wandering Earth 2” and “Full River Red” in the $600 million club. There have been just four Hollywood titles to reach that benchmark in 2023, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Guardians Vol. 3,” “Fast X” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” with “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” likely to be the fifth.
Ironically, give or take “Oppenheimer” or “Barbie” overperforming, the next likely candidate will be “The Meg 2: The Trench,” which is a Chinese/Hollywood co-production that stars both Jason Statham and “Wandering Earth” and “Wolf Warrior II” star Wu Jing. “The Meg” earned $155 million in both North America and China on the way to a $530 million global total in the summer of 2018. If the sequel plays anything like a Chinese blockbuster in China, it’s going to have a major leg up on its Hollywood rivals.