Jurassic World Dominion began its domestic box office run with $18 million in Thursday previews, and it’s been out in portions of the world for the last week already. The film earned $55.7 million in its overseas debut, including big scores in South Korea (a Covid-era record of $6 million, although its 11-day total is now $19 million) and Mexico ($23 million thus far). It nabbed the biggest opening day of 2022 in France with $1.9 million and corralled a rock-solid $15.3 million (including midnight shows) Friday gross in China. That’s with cinemas operating at best at 75% capacity and with 25% of cinemas still closed (including all of them in Shanghai). All told, the $185 million dino threequel (or, uh, six-quel?) has earned $95.1 million overseas for a current (counting the domestic grosses) $113.1 million worldwide cume.
China has been mostly a landmine for Hollywood releases since early 2020 (since the start of Covid). Governmental agencies have kept every Marvel movie out of the marketplace for increasingly silly reasons (like too much Statue of Liberty in Spider-Man: No Way Home) that imply that they just don’t want Marvel movies in their theaters. Moreover, the track record for big Hollywood releases has been spotty at best, with Free Guy ($95 million out of $330 million global) and Tenet ($66 million/$365 million) overperforming, Godzilla Vs. Kong ($188 million/$469 million) and F9 ($205 million/$721 million) soaring and almost everything else struggling or outright tanking in China. Meanwhile, local biggies have been crushing it, with the likes of The Eight-Hundred, Detective Chinatown 3 and The Battle at Lake Changjin earning $440-$911 million totals mostly in China.
However, with Hollywood wondering if they indeed couldn’t count on China to give a regular boost to their (mostly already successful) blockbusters, which frankly I’ve been warning about since I saw Gone with the Bullets (China’s first IMAX 3-D flick) in late 2014 and realized that China was on the verge of making their tentpoles, we’ve seen a slew of releases that earned more-than-good-enough global earnings with little-to-no money from China. Spider-Man: No Way Home ($1.891 billion), Venom: Let There Be Carnage ($505 million on a $110 million budget), Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ($394 million-and-counting), Top Gun: Maverick (over/under $650 million heading into weekend three) and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($912 million) didn’t even play in China. The Batman earned just $25 million in China or 3.3% of its $770 million global total.
The top-tier results of Top Gun: Maverick and the last two MCU movies would argue that while Hollywood would love to have Chinese box office, even if it’s usually just giving an artificial boost (studios only get back 25% of the ticket sales) to already successful global blockbusters, it’s no more of a requirement in 2022 than it frankly ever was. The last non-Marvel/DC movie to crack $265 million in China was Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which earned $267 million out of $1.308 billion worldwide there. The $170 million J.A. Bayona-directed sequel would have still cracked $1.04 billion without a penny from China. With few big franchises depending on China (The Fast Saga, The MonsterVerse and maybe Avatar), the pressure is now on China to justify Hollywood’s interest.
Whether China used its interest and investment in Hollywood to learn the tricks of the trade and eventually make their own localized blockbusters, few if any big Hollywood movies bombed elsewhere but were hits due to China. Sure, you have xXx: Return of Xander Cage ($164 million out of $385 million) or even Ready Player One ($218 million/$583 million), but even the “hot in China” status of Terminator: Genisys ($113 million out of $441 million in 2015) or X-Men: Apocalypse ($121 million out of $543 million in 2016) didn’t stop Dark Fate and Dark Pheonix from bombing worldwide. Most of the biggest Hollywood biggies in China are the same blockbusters that soared everywhere else too. Aquaman earned $298 million out of $1.48 billion in China, but I’m guessing WB would have been happy with $850 million.
The Colin Trevorrow-directed Jurassic World: Dominion should earn around $50 million for the weekend, well below the $99 million debut of Jurassic World in 2015 and the $111 million debut (including a $34 million opening day) of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in 2018. Covid concerns notwithstanding, the drop probably says less about the franchise and more about how much or little it means for a surefire Hollywood tentpole to play in China. Universal will happily take the (guestimated) over/under $115 million China box office, or 25% of that, but it is not a requirement. Hollywood never needed China, not for Transformers, not for Avengers and not for momentarily big-in-China flicks like Warcraft, Pacific Rim and Terminator: Genisys which created the false impression of success. A boffo Chinese gross for a Hollywood movie helps China more than Hollywood.