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NEWS

Chinese New Year Pics: ‘The Wandering Earth’ To Ignite Local Sci-Fi Biz?; ‘Pegasus’, ‘Peppa’ & More Also Ring In Holiday Frame

time:2019-02-05

This week, China rings in the New Year, and as annual tradition has it, multiplexes will be stuffed with new local titles vying for big business during the lucrative holiday period. Of the more than 10 pictures releasing Tuesday, among the most anticipated are epic The Wandering Earth, which could be the breakout that ignites the homegrown sci-fi business; racing-themed comedy Pegasus from multi-talent Han Han; and Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year, based on the hugely popular kids character.

The Wandering Earth and Pegasus were the only films that held press screenings in the Middle Kingdom, and only the former had sneaks tonight, before tomorrow’s holiday begins in earnest. It grossed an estimated RMB 14M ($2.08M), setting a new record for Chinese movies. But this is a wait-and-see game: With so much choice, alongside family commitments, word of mouth is incredibly important during this competitive — and often frontloaded and fickle — frame.

 

Last year, the full holiday session was worth RMB 5.4B ($853M at historical rates), but it was also a wild ride. We watched as Monster Hunt 2, the sequel to 2015’s monster hit, shattered single-day records with a $97M Friday opening. It also set a benchmark as the biggest opening day for a Chinese film, topping 2017’s Wolf Warrior 2 which remains the market’s highest-grossing movie ever at $854.2M.

 

But the Day 1 winner doesn’t always carry the holiday, and sure enough last February, comedy sequel Detective Chinatown 2 surged ahead of Monster Hunt 2, ultimately grossing over $541M to MH2’s $356M. Also rising was patriotic action thriller Operation Red Sea. That movie was eventually 2018’s biggest at $576M. We saw a similar turnaround in 2017.

 

So, what’s in store for 2019’s potential roller coaster Lunar New Year? The Wandering Earth, billed as China’s first sci-fi blockbuster, is certainly one to watch. Homegrown sci-fi hasn’t made a big impact locally while Hollywood titles like Interstellar, The Martian and Gravity have excelled (Star Wars, conversely, has not). Reports out of China suggest high hopes that the $50M Wandering Earth will usher in a new era for this type of local production. It’s also thought the emotional elements of the film could strike a chord. Buzz from early previews is positive.

 

The film is adapted from a short story by The Three Body Problem’s Liu Cixin and stars Wolf Warrior’s Wu Jing. Set in the near future against the backdrop of the imminent destruction of the sun, a project is hatched to move Earth’s residents to a remote star system and save the human race. The movie hails from Beijing Culture (Wolf Warrior, Dying To Survive, A Cool Fish) and director Frant Gwo (aka Guo Fan). It will be released in 3D in about 600 Imax China theaters on Tuesday (it goes out in North America on Friday).

Imax is also putting Pegasus into 600 theaters. The comedy stars Dying To Survive and Hello Mr Billionaire’s Teng Shen (he’ll also be seen this week in sci-fi comedy Crazy Alien, which features Matthew Morrison). Pegasus is directed by multi-hyphenate Han Han, a rally driver/blogger/author/singer who helmed 2017 hit Duckweed.

The story follows a former race car champion-turned-fried rice stall manager who decides to return to the track and challenge a new generation of drivers. But there are road bumps along the way as he has no money, no car, no teammates and a license that has to be renewed.

 

Other films to keep an eye on during the packed upcoming week include Crazy Alien, the third installment in director Ning Hao’s black comedy trilogy; Stephen Chow’s The New King of Comedy; Jackie Chan-starrer The Knight of Shadows: Between Yin And Yang; and Hong Kong crime pic Integrity from Infernal Affairs‘ Alan Mak.

For the kids, eOne/Alibaba’s Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year was developed specifically with the holiday in mind. Peppa is a viral wonder. According to Alibaba, the five-minute promotional trailer for the film (see it below) quickly racked up hundreds of millions of views across various streaming platforms after it was released in mid-January and the Mandarin hashtag #WhatIsPeppa drew 1.6B reads on Weibo.