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Latest batch of Hollywood blockbusters wow in China, underwhelm at home

By Liu Ning (People's Daily Online)    16:26, June 23, 2017

Chinese audience have once again showed their fanatical support for Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, as “Transformers: The Last Knight” took in 39 million RMB ($5.7 million) at its June 22 midnight premiere in the Chinese mainland. It's the series' strongest midnight opening in China yet, nearly doubling that of “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

“Transformers: The Last Knight”sells big in China, but underwhelms with North American audiences.

The opening-day box office of the fifth installment in Michael Bay’s explosive Transformers series has scored over 111 million RMB ($16.2 million) so far. More crowds are expected in theaters tonight and over the weekend.

In North America, however, it’s a different story. The loud summer blockbuster only generated a modest $15.7 million in first-day business on Wednesday, the franchise’s lowest-earning opening day ever.

Critics have lashed out at “Transformers: The Last Knight,” calling it “empty,” “tedious” and “worthless,” among other criticisms. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone even penned this fierce dig: “This one makes the summer's other blockbuster misfires look like masterpieces.” Indeed, the movie's approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes is currently 15 percent, the worst of the whole franchise, with an average rating of 3.2 out of 10.

The movie's approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes is currently 15 percent, the worst of the whole franchise.

With an earth-shattering production cost of $217 million, Paramount and Hasbro’s robot flick has become a high-stakes bet that depends very much on its performance in China to bring home a profit.

This is not the first time a Hollywood blockbuster has sold big in China but underwhelmed with North American audiences. Just last month, “The Fate of the Furious” became Hollywood’s highest-grossing film in China, with a total gross of 2.67 billion RMB ($390 million). That figure is 73 percent higher than its $225 million North America performance. “The Mummy,” starring Tom Cruise, has taken in 600 million RMB ($88 million) so far in China. But in North America? An underperforming $62 million.

Big-budget Hollywood productions are increasingly looking to China to make up for domestic losses at the box office. Some even intentionally cater to Chinese audiences with massive visuals, Chinese celebrities, local landmarks and product placement. But the big question is: How long before these tricks - and the movies themselves - get tired? 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Bianji, Hongyu)

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