‘The Martian’ Lands Prime Release Date in China

Fox’s Ridley Scott space epic, in which the Chinese play a key role, has a good shot at topping $100 million there

Fox has landed a prime Nov. 25 opening date in China for its blockbuster space epic “The Martian,” the studio confirmed Thursday.

The Ridley Scott-directed sci-fi tale starring Matt Damon will debut on a Thursday, five days after “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” opens and two weeks after the James Bond film “Spectre” rolls out on Nov. 13. It will be the final live-action U.S. film released in China this year, with only Paramount’s animated “SpongeBob Squarepants” to follow.

That sounds crowded, but it could have been much worse for Fox. Chinese officials have in the past set release dates that pitted U.S. blockbusters against each other as the calendar wound down to bolster their homegrown films. But with China’s movies outgrossing U.S. releases this year, there will be no double-booking.

Chinese space officials have a key role in the plot of “The Martian,” which should help it play well there. The space epic could top $100 million behind the Great Wall, and if it does, the film should hit the $400 million mark internationally.

“The Martian” has already been a force overseas. It has taken in $188 million so far, and is expected to cross $200 million this weekend. It opened Thursday in France, leaving China and Japan as the only two remaining major markets.

“Gravity,” another space-based thriller, took in roughly $70 million in China in 2013 on its way to a $449 million international total for Warner Bros. Last year’s “Interstellar” grossed $122 million there  and finished with a $487 million overseas total for Paramount.

Separately Thursday, Fox and IMAX Theaters announced a return to the giant screens for “The Martian.” A domestic run is set for one week beginning Oct. 30, with some international IMAX dates opening mid-October through November.