The Wandering Earth
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Credit: China Film Group Corporation

Netflix bringing Chinese sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth to the U.S.

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Feb 21, 2019

China's film industry is truly making itself known around the globe these days. Especially now that Netflix has announced it's snagged the rights to release The Wandering Earth, the Chinese sci-fi blockbuster touted as the country's first mainstream sci-fi hit on par with the production quality and thrills of a Hollywood tentpole.

Helmed by Frant Gwo and starring Chinese A-listers Qu Chuxiao, Li Guangjie, Ng Man-tat and Zhao Jinmai, The Wandering Earth has been raking in the renminbi since hitting theaters on Feb. 5, Chinese New Year. And given it’s the Year of the Pig, it's met with great fortune. So far, the film has earned a whopping $558 million in two weeks of release, making it the second highest grossing movie ever at the Middle Kingdom's box office, with no signs of slowing down.

Netflix hasn't issued a release date for the film on its platform, but considering the streaming giant doesn't operate in China due to local regulations favoring homegrown streaming services, it marks a major acquisition for the U.S. streaming service.

"Audiences from over 190 countries will soon meet The Wandering Earth on Netflix. I am glad that our movie can reach to people from different parts of the world. This is a movie created for the Chinese audience around the world, and it has been positively received since its premiere, we are very excited about it," Gwo said. "Netflix will translate it into 28 languages, enabling more viewers to enjoy it regardless of geographical and linguistic differences. I hope they will like it.”

China-based CMC Pictures has first run rights and gave The Wandering Earth a limited theatrical run Stateside where it's tallied about $4 million so far from 64 theaters – not a bad haul considering Americans' general unfamiliarity with the title. Sci-fi fans will be glad to hear however that the flick has already received a ringing endorsement from Avatar director James Cameron, who knows a thing or two about sci-fi blockbusters. He hailed The Wandering Earth as a real breakthrough for big effects filmmaking in China.

"[The Wandering Earth] shows that the film's producers can compete with other visual effects companies around the world. China is ready to embrace this market," Cameron said at a press conference in China to promote Alita: Battle Angel (via China Plus).

James Cameron Alita Battle Angel China Press Conference

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Gwo would certainly agree having previously cited Cameron as a major influence on him thanks to Terminator 2.

Adapting the short sci-fi story The Body's Problem by Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin, The Wandering Earth follows humanity's efforts to save itself in the face of a certain annihilation from the sun by moving Earth's inhabitants to another celestial home. With an estimated budget of $50 million, the movie employed over 7,000 post-production and special effects wizards to create over 3,000 conceptual designs, 10,000 specifically-built props, and more than 2,000 special effects, a slew of them CGI shots.

Given that kind of production scale, Hollywood better watch out.

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