​Top 10 foreign films in China 2020

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 19, 2021
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By the end of 2019, Hollywood had much to be excited about, capping the year with a cinematic triumph that demonstrated the potential of the Chinese market: Disney and Marvel Studios' "Avengers: Endgame," which grossed approximately 4.25 billion yuan ($607.25 million).

Posters of the top 10 foreign films in China 2020. [Photo/China.org.cn]

Gearing up for 2020, the excitement was building over the release of Hollywood-made Chinese story "Mulan" and numerous other blockbusters in the booming market. But then COVID-19 changed the world forever. 

China's whopping 64.3-billion-yuan box office revenue in 2019 set a new annual domestic record. That figure seems even more remarkable when compared to 2020's total takings of 20.4 billion, down 68.2% year-on-year. However, China still became the biggest film market in the world in large part because the U.S. shut the majority of cinemas even to this day. 

In 2019, imported foreign films accounted for 38% of the annual total gross revenue of all films in the Chinese mainland market. But by 2020, foreign films only made up 16% of the roster, with most of which coming from Hollywood studios, as reported by the Beacon Research Institute, a box office analyst unit.

The withering presence of foreign films is not only due to the pandemic and release cancellations but also because of reduced marketing budgets and abilities of foreign studios, including the cancelation of Chinese premieres and international stars' promotional trips to China. Several other factors have also played a part in the diminishing reach of foreign films, including but not limited to a shift in domestic audience's interests, fatigue from brainless visual effects, an unavoidable cultural gap, a reliance upon Asian stereotypes, and occasionally the improper China-related joke. Hollywood blockbusters were losing their glamor even before the pandemic and their percentage share in the Chinese market has been shrinking for years. 

As worldwide cinemas struggle amid the COVID-19 pandemic, China.org.cn reviews the foreign films that performed best in China in 2020, reflecting changes in the market as well as indicating future trends.

10. "Spies in Disguise"

A still from "Spies in Disguise" [Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Studios]

Animated comedy "Spies in Disguise" is the only imported film to enter this list courtesy of earnings garnered from the period before the COVID-19 outbreak. The film, jointly directed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, both making their directorial debut, and grossed 103 million yuan in China. Much of the film's success can be put down to the voices of Will Smith and Tom Holland — two of most popular Hollywood actors among Chinese audiences and known for their previous roles in the "Men in Black" and "Spider-Man" franchises, respectively — who buoyed the storyline with their chemistry. "Spies in Disguise" also marked the first release by Blue Sky Studios as a unit of The Walt Disney Company since the latter's purchase of 20th Century Fox. However, it opened to the Chinese market on Jan. 3, 2020, only 20 days before all theaters in the country were shut down due to the epidemic. 

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