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SYFY WIRE Box Office

This Chinese sci-fi blockbuster is about to become the country's biggest movie, ever

By Jacob Oller
The Wandering Earth

China got its first sci-fi blockbuster and it’s currently dominating the box office. In a country where homegrown films like Wolf Warrior 2 and The Mermaid trounce international offerings like Avengers: Infinity War or any of the Star Wars films, it was only a matter of time before the science fiction genre took over just like it has in Hollywood.

The film, The Wandering Earth, is an adaptation of the Hugo Award-winning Liu Cixin from director Frant Gwo focused on a squad of Chinese astronauts who have to save Earth from a dangerous sun’s orbit. So they have to move the Earth to a new star. Yeah. Think Armageddon meets Apollo 13 with the healthy addition of novelty (it’s the country’s first Chinese sci-fi blockbuster) and patriotic appeal (the astronauts are Chinese stars like Wu Jing and Ng Man-tat rather than Tom Hanks or Bruce Willis).

Those two factors — and the film’s savvy opening date, which was the first day of the 2019 Chinese New Year — helped bolster the film to a record-breaking opening at the box office. According to Reuters, the film made 3 billion yuan ($443 million) in just 10 days. That’s twice what Star Wars: The Last Jedi made in its opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada. This opening puts The Wandering Earth on track to become China’s highest-grossing film of all time.

With Wolf Warrior 2 currently sitting atop the throne at 5.679 billion yuan, The Wandering Earth is poised to earn around that much — and it’s already the sixth highest-grossing film in the country ahead of The Fate of the Furious (the highest-earning Hollywood film on the list).

Since the Chinese film industry is, like all of China’s industries, dependent in some way on the government and its support, the foreign ministry’s mention of the film in their briefing isn’t trivial. “I know the hottest movie now is The Wandering Earth, I don’t know if you have watched or not, I’d recommend it,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in this week’s briefing.

China may have finally caught the interstellar blockbuster bug, but fans can catch up on other Chinese mega-hits to see what all the fuss is about. Wolf Warrior 2 can be seen on Hulu while The Mermaid is available for rent on Amazon Prime.

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