'Zootopia' makes dark horse turnaround in China

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, March 26, 2016
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"Zootopia" was a real dark horse which transformed from a weak competitor in the market into the highest grossing animated feature ever in China. [File Photo]

In the booming Chinese film market, anything can happen. "Zootopia" was a real dark horse which transformed from a weak competitor in the market into the highest grossing animated feature ever in China.

When Disney's "Zootopia" debuted in China, it faced one of the strongest Chinese blockbusters as its rival, "Ip Man 3." It only received 14.6 percent of showing arrangements among all films and took in 22.41 million yuan (US$3.43 million) on its opening day. By comparison, "Ip Man 3," one of Chinese moviegoers' favorite kung fu flicks, had 40.9 percent of showings that dominated the market and grossed 148 million yuan (US$22.7 million) in a day.

It looks like Disney almost gave up promoting the animated picture. A number of critically applauded animated features from Disney had previously failed in the Chinese market, such as "Inside Out" which earned only US$15.31 million in China while its world wide gross was US$856 million, winning an Oscar for best animated feature in 2016. Would "Zootopia" be another failure?

The situation gradually changed - partly thanks to the stunning high quality production value, rave reviews and the word-of-mouth effect on Chinese social networks for "Zootopia" and partly thanks to the fake box office gross scandal of "Ip Man 3." Not long ago, China's film market watchdog suspended the distribution license of a distributor that committed fraud to jack up the box office figures for "Ip Man 3."

Beijing Max Screen, the film's distributor, admitted to having bought 56 million yuan's worth of the tickets itself. The conspirators fabricated more than 7,600 screenings of the film that they claimed generated 32 million yuan in ticket sales, according to the film bureau under the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Four days after, "Zootopia" surpassed "Ip Man 3" as the highest-grossing film of the day on March 8, raking in 68.67 million yuan (US$10.53 million), it has dominated Chinese box office charts and weekends, until "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" opened on March 25. Additionally, it even made 165 million yuan (US$25.31 million) on March 12, which became the biggest day for ananimated feature in Chinese film history.

Thus far, it has made 1.2 billion yuan (US$184 million) in the Chinese market and has taken the crown from the Chinese-American co-production "Kung Fu Panda 3." It even surpassed Disney's greatly hyped "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which only grossed US$125 million in China. "Zootopia" is also the first animated feature to pass the 1 billion yuan (US$153.4 million) mark. The former and short-lived champion "Kung Fu Panda 3" later joined the 1 billion yuan animation club after a nearly two-month running in theaters.

In addition, "Zootopia" merchandize books published by CITIC Press Group have also performed well in the market due to the film's phenomenal success. The books sold about 500,000 copies in just 16 days and will break the previous records of Disney's licensed books.

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