A poster for Chinese film The Eight Hundred Photo: VCG
The Chinese mainland box office may surpass the box office of North America to become 2020's box-office champion due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese experts predicted on Monday.
The prediction came after war epic The Eight Hundred surpassed 2.88 billion yuan ($425 million) at the global box office to become the highest-earning film of 2020 on Sunday.
"Thank you all for the support. Cheers for Chinese film," the film's official account on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo posted when announcing the new milestone on Sunday night.
The hashtag "The Eight Hundred tops global box office for 2020" quickly began trending on Sina Weibo on Sunday, with many Chinese netizens sending their congratulations to the blockbuster.
"Congratulations! This good result is also thanks to the well controlled coronavirus situation in China," one netizen wrote on Sina Weibo in a post that received many likes.
Many film experts credited the film's excellent achievement to its story, high production values and perfect timing for entering theaters.
Shi Wenxue, a film critic and a teacher at the Beijing Film Academy, told the Global Times on Monday that the film came out at just the right time since Chinese moviegoers went all out to cinemas when Chinese theaters reopened after having been closed down for half a year.
Another factor behind the film's success may be curiosity. The Eight Hundred was originally scheduled to release in theaters on August 21, 2019, but was delayed a year due to "technical problems," which in turn triggered moviegoers' curiosity about the film.
According to reports, the film The Eight Hundred will stay in theaters through October 21, giving its box-office plenty of time to grow, especially during China's National Day holiday from October1-8.
Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times that while The Eight Hundred will see strong competition after Friday with the release of Leap, which tells the story of China's women's national volleyball team, he still predicts that the war epic's final global box-office will reach 3.2 billion yuan.
So far the Chinese mainland's 2020 box office has reached 7.7 billion yuan, or $1.13 billion, more than half North America's $1.9 billion. With the COVID-19 pandemic still shutting down theaters and delaying films in the US, some Chinese experts are predicting that the Chinese mainland may leap past this small gap to surpass the North American market to become the world's largest film market - especially considering the upcoming National Day holiday will see a number of big films hit screens.
The National Day holiday is a major box office earner for the Chinese mainland. In 2019, the holiday brought in 4.38 billion yuan in a single week. Although mainland theaters will only be permitted to open at 75 percent capacity during 2020's holiday period, mainland cinemas are still likely to see a huge haul at the box office.
Three domestic blockbuster films - Vanguard starring actions superstar Jackie Chan, anthology film My People, My Homeland and animated film Legend of Deification - will be released during the holiday among other smaller releases.
Two of the biggest potential winners are My People, My Homeland and Legend of Deification.
With award-winning director Zhang Yimou as chief executive producer, My People, My Homeland is a sequel of sorts to the hit film My People, My Country, which brought in 3.1 billion yuan at the mainland box office in 2019.
"The Chinese mainland box office is very likely to surpass the box office of North America to top the 2020 global box office due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," Xiao said.
While the US still has a few blockbusters scheduled for release before the end of 2020, considering COVID-19's impact on theaters in the US, box office earnings are sure to be negatively impacted.
According to Shi and Xiao, since the coronavirus situation has been brought under control in China, the international films that release over the next few months are bound to perform better in the mainland market than in the US. For instance, Christopher Nolan's Tenet earned far more in the mainland than in the US.