After a time in which the box office bombings on the back of Marvel were happening year after year, something that peaked with Avengers: Endgame, the coronavirus, like so many other things, changed the box office.
The discreet results of the only films that have dared to test the pulse of theaters during the pandemic (Some head-on like Tenet, and others with one foot on streaming like Wonder Woman 1984 or Mulan), do not seem to predict that 2021 change this. With drama for the studios but, above all, for the small exhibitors, many of them doomed to closure.
However, the place where the pandemic emerged just over a year ago, China, has now become the top-grossing country in the world.
2020 was the first year in which a film from the Asian giant was the highest grossing in the world. We are talking about The Eight Hundred, a war drama that managed to gross 461 million dollars worldwide, surpassing the 426 million of Bad Boys for Life 2, the only Western film with blockbuster aspirations that was lucky enough to fall on the release schedule before that the world was paralyzed.
The change in trend has a local thrust, but it may have global repercussions. Until now, the Chinese market and its millions of inhabitants had been capable of raising local productions to the top-15 of the box office - it already happened with the science fiction plot The Wandering Land in 2019 - but at the same time it also promoted Hollywood products. Marvel, in fact, had already strongly targeted this market with the preparation of Shang-Chi and the legend of the 10 rings, its first direct approach to the Asian and Chinese market in particular.
China takes the world box office, and Netflix takes note
Chinese films have so far not had much penetration in the Western market, but the lack of Hollywood release titles is also making them start to arrive. Netflix is clear proof of this.
The red streaming giant is not yet available in China, although it has signed alliances for its exclusive series to reach the country through IQiyi, a local platform owned by Baidu.
However, it has been incorporating more and more films that have triumphed in China to its catalog. Today for example we can see on Netflix the aforementioned The Wandering Land or The Master of Ying and Yang, all of them titles that have been local hits at the box office.
Will it become less dependen ton foreign premieres?
The underlying question is whether this will mark a change in trend from the point of view of how Hollywood's greatest hits had focused on China when it came to expanding their box office. In other words, if China is going to become more self-sufficient in its cinemas.
After some of the titles that we have named, the last bomb at the local box office has been Hi, Mom, a dramatic comedy about maternal love with time travel that in turn has broken the usual hegemony of effective cinema that used to flood its theaters .
China is now the largest film market
February has been the most important month of all time in terms of movie ticket sales in China, which so far have amounted to 11.2 billion yuan (1.7 billion US dollars).
Chinese cinemas were able to reopen in the middle of last year and since then they have seen a steady growth in audience. Local films have also benefited from unofficial "blackout" periods, in which only national productions are allowed to be shown, a practice that was already common in the country.
According to the China Film Data Information Network, 95% of ticket sales come from the seven highest-grossing films whose premiere was scheduled for the Lunar New Year festival, which began on February 12 this year.
According to data from Box Office Mojo, last year China sold 2.7 billion dollars in tickets, compared to 2.3 billion in the United States, which registered an 80% decrease.
Avatar taps into China’s health
This context has caused some unthinkable things to happen a while ago, such as Avatar being re-released 12 years later in the Asian country.
The fact that Avatar returns to theaters is explained by how China's own health has currently made the production of its own films a bit lame to satisfy all the craving for entertainment. And the move has been successful. In just a few days, Avatar has managed with its re-release to regain the throne as the highest grossing film in the history of cinema, surpassing Endgame. The question is: will Disney now take advantage of it to also re-release MCU movies?