Aquaman hasn’t opened in the US yet and it’s already racked over $250 million in overseas box office takings. That’s a good sign for the movie. Reviews have been generally good, buzz has been good. People worldwide want to see it. And it looks like people in every other country has gotten to see it before America does. That’s good. It means it’ll open in America touting big box office overseas that’s still climbing, and whatever it makes at the US box office is just going to bolster the overall numbers.
By now, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a huge chunk of that $250 million (and rising) came from the Chinese box office. As of Sunday, it racked up at least $189.2 million dollars in China alone. They like you, Aquaman. They really, really like you.
China is the biggest market for Marvel Studios and DC movies right now. It is the market that has turned Marvel and DC superhero movies into billion-dollar franchises. Well, they were already heading that way. China just accelerated it. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice bombed in China, which says a lot. Chinese audiences on opening night told all their friends in social media who then stayed away. Aquaman is helping DC movies finally gain traction in China.
As it currently stands, Aquaman is the fourth-highest grossing superhero movie in China. The other three are Avengers: Infinity War ($359 million) , Venom ($270.2 million), and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($240.1 million).
There are two main reasons Aquaman is a hit in China: 1) it doesn’t suck. According to reviews, it’s fun and exactly what you want in a big DC blockbuster movie. 2) It’s the type of epic CGI blockbuster that virtually every audience in the world likes to see.
Then there are two unique reasons why it’s a hit in China: 1) It’s an aquatic epic and reminds Chinese moviegoers of the last time they saw one – Stephen Chow’s slapstick environmentalist comedy action thriller The Mermaid. The Mermaid was released in 2016 and launched the whole blockbuster era of movies in China. It made $500 million in just a few weeks that summer in China alone. Aquaman is, without Warners or DC intending it, a piece of movie comfort food for the Chinese in more ways than anywhere else. 2) Director James Wan is Chinese. Granted, he was born in Malaysia and raised in Australia, but there’s some cultural pride at play here from moviegoers in China. “Hey, he’s one of us and he’s made it in Hollywood!”
It remains to be seen whether people are going to keep going to Aquaman in China in the coming weeks. When a blockbuster movie makes hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s because people liked it so much they went back to see it again, two, three, even more times. In any country. It’s already a given that Aquaman is going to have its fans. The question – if you’re interested in this kind of fantasy football – is how many long its box office tail is going to be.