Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 1:54AM
Perhaps in part because some of the film was shot there, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has become the top earning film in the history of China. The previous record was held by Titanic with a little more than $52 million. Transformers recently logged $58.5 million in China, or 400 million yuan.
Despite having potentially the largest market for anything and everything, the billion-plus people in China only get to see about 20 U.S. movies a year. That's because the country caps the number of foreign releases per anum. Later this year, audiences there will finally get to see Twilight, and Up will open on a couple hundred 3-D screens in August.
Transformers has made over $750 million worldwide, which despite what you may think of it, officially means it's a giant hit. You'd think that would be obvious, but with the production budget, back end deals, and global advertising and marketing, Transformers probably had to make over $500 million to be profitable. So now, it's definitely playing with house money.
The Chinese market is growing a little bit at a time, a combination of Hollywood making a big play for the business there and homegrown movies that not only do well in China but earn an international reputation, as well. As the number of screens grow, it stands to reason that more American films will trickle into China, although they still have to pass the government censors.
The $59 million and counting for Transformers marks significant growth for the franchise and underscores the general acceptance - or even demand - for American films in China. The first movie in the series made $37 million two years ago, which by the time Revenge of the Fallen is done will represent probably around half the amount of the sequel. It is also, to Hollywood's chagrin, a big contributor to illegal downloads, responsible for about $300 million in lost revenue a year for the studios.