Any movie fan knows by now that there are two measures for a film’s box office success: domestic and everything else. Domestic always referred to the American box office, for good reason. It has dominated earnings and even regions such as Europe could not compare to the amount Americans spend to watch movies.
This has been shifting, most notably through China’s growing love affair with Hollywood blockbusters, and the evidence has been building of its clout. Films such as Avengers: Age of Ultron and Fast & Furious 7 went from successful to record-breakers thanks to China. Transformers: Age of Extinction was already a top 10 earner, but ended 2014 as global king of the hill also due to China (perhaps helped by several big action scenes taking place in Beijing).
But the most telling sign of the movie world’s second ‘domestic’? Terminator Genisys. The much-hyped sequel met with disaster in the west, failing so dismally to gain audience approval that it couldn’t even surpass the much-maligned Terminator: Salvation.
Yet some outlets earlier noted how China might be a promising area, not the least because Arnold Schwarzenegger – who remains very popular in that side of the world – had been promoting the film heavily. It worked: Terminator Genisys is now the second-most successful film in the series, if you tally worldwide earnings, and less than $100 million away from beating the mighty Terminator 2.
Scale also has to do with it: in the first week of September there were over 250,000 screenings of the movie in China.
The pattern in itself is not unusual. For example, Quentin Tarantino’s films generally had a thing about doing poorly in the US, but cleaning up everywhere else. But Genisys‘ revival is a sea-change: a bona fide tentpole blockbuster rescued from utter failure into becoming one of the year’s bigger hits – and it earned at least two thirds of its money outside the U.S.
The film’s popularity even spurred allegations of fraud: a new, local Chinese movie very much on the patriotic tract came out of nowhere to compete against Genisys – and the Chinese ain’t buying it.
In other news, Kervyn’s threats to send us to China if we don’t start making deadlines might now actually mean a foreign office position…
P.S. if a Genisys sequel is in the works, I would like to urge the producers to fire everyone except Arnie. That will save the film.
Last Updated: September 8, 2015