Update: “Looper” China Box Office Lower Than Reported

Sci-Fi Flick Pulled In $21 Million In US Market In Opening Weekend

DMG funded part of "Looper" under the condition that locations were moved and a Chinese actor was given a role

On Monday, we wrote that the China box office haul of the Bruce Willis/Joseph Gordon-Levitt sci-fi action film “Looper” had surpassed that of the US, marking the first time an international film (and a US-China co-production) had seen China rank as its #1 opening market. As the Guardian (via the Deadline film blog) noted, the film, which was shot for US$30 million, pulled in an estimated $21 million in the US market last weekend but was expected to have made between $23-25 million in China. As James Stern of Endgame Entertainment — which produced the film along with Sony/TriStar Pictures, FilmDistrict and China’s DMG Entertainment — told Deadline, “While we don’t have the final box office tallys (sic) because of the Chinese National Holiday, it looks as if we are #1 in that market and at least on par if not exceeding the U.S. box office, marking the very first time in history that China would be world’s leading market for an international film.”

However, as Deadline re-reported today, it appears these figures were wildly off, and the film may not have debuted at number one at the Chinese box office after all:

[E]veryone 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).

As the Guardian points out, today’s “dramatic turnaround…highlights the fledgling nature of box-office reporting in China in comparison with the US, where grosses have been a part of the Hollywood conversation ever since films such as Jaws and Star Wars ushered in the blockbuster era in the mid-1970s,” adding that the delay in correcting the incorrect data has been blamed on China’s ongoing National Day/Golden Week celebrations.

Aimed at attracting both American and Chinese audiences, as Jing Daily noted last summer, Beijing-based DMG Entertainment agreed to fund a rumored 40 percent of the US$30 million “Looper” budget under the condition that a key location in the film was moved from Paris to Shanghai, and that a role was included for the Chinese actor Xu Qing.

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