BREAKING… 2ND UPDATE: I’m trying to get the full story. But I’ve learned that everyone associated with the futuristic actioner Looper in China — Sony and TriStar Pictures, FilmDistrict, Endgame Entertainment, and the Chinese co-producer DMG Entertainment — made a blooper. Their execs reported early but wrong box office grosses. The reason is innocent enough: calculating grosses from some theaters mixed up dollars with yuan, making the tally appear much bigger than it actually was. The result is that no records were set, as execuives claimed. It was not the first time an international film debut beat the U.S., as executives also claimed. And no one knows whether it opened #1 in China. Instead of $23M-$25M grosses for its first weekend in China, one source tells me the actual figure may be only $5M-$7M. (One China film blog thinks it’s more like $4M-$5M.) I’m still trying to obtain the correct final box office tally (delayed by the Chinese National Holiday). Meanwhile I’ll be correcting my previous reports - although I did note that Endgame’s James Stern was “cagey” confirming the records because “we don’t have the final box office tally” but congratulated his team nonetheless.
Here’s why the big numbers were plausible: the time-traveling hitman film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt became partly financed by the Chinese production company DMG and went through some major changes to please the new investors and presumably please the Chinese audience. The script was rewritten to take place in China instead of France 60 years into the future when China has become the largest superpower in the world and innovated time travel. Also Chinese actress Xu Qing was added to the cast as Willis’ wife. All this helped Looper’s chance of premiering day and date in China so it could take advantage of the country’s cinema building boom. The strategy could have paid off.
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