'The Wandering Earth' finds profit during Chinese New Year
By Chen Tong
02:53

China's box office sales during the Spring Festival hit 5.8 billion yuan (about 858.8 million U.S. dollars), with the science fiction thriller "The Wandering Earth" coming in on top. And many consider its success a sign of things to come for China's sci-fi genre.

“The Wandering Earth” is based on the novel of the same name by award-winning author Liu Cixin. The story tells of a plan to save the Earth from an aging Sun which is about to turn into a red giant.

It turns out sheer curiosity is one of the main draws for audiences. "The Wandering Earth" garnered box office earnings of almost 200 million yuan (29.6 million U.S. dollars) on the first day of the Year of the Pig. As of the end of Tuesday, the film had netted 2.6 billion yuan (385 million U.S. dollars) at the box office. And market observers predict it will make a total of over five billion yuan (about 740.3 million U.S. dollars).

Official poster to celebrate 2.6 billion yuan (385 million U.S. dollars) at the box office. /Photo from “The Wandering Earth” official weibo

Official poster to celebrate 2.6 billion yuan (385 million U.S. dollars) at the box office. /Photo from “The Wandering Earth” official weibo

Cinemas were happy to give the film top billing. "13 percent of the showings on our schedule are 'The Wandering Earth', the number one position," said Gu Yan, general manager of the Shanghai Film Art Center.

Film critics believe improvements in special effect technology were a key to the film's success. Over 2,000 scenes in the film are rendered by special effects and 70 percent of those were domestically produced.

"I think the quality of the film is quite high, even better than some Hollywood films like 'The Day After Tomorrow'. This is not an overnight thing, but the result of a generation of hard work by China's filmmakers," said Wang Ce, CEO of Shanghai Firstake Consulting.

In the first half of 2018, Chinese audiences spent over nine billion yuan (about 1.3 billion U.S. dollars) on sci-fi films, with less than ten percent of that coming from domestic productions.

The lack of technology in the past was what frightened local filmmakers away from sci-fi films, and that was why China rarely made domestic productions, despite the success of local sci-fi novelists like Liu Cixin. 

An audience watching "The Wandering Earth". /VCG Photo

An audience watching "The Wandering Earth". /VCG Photo

"The lack of sci-fi films stems from a lack of confidence among Chinese young film directors. ‘The Wandering Earth' is a milestone in domestic film production, but there are not many stories like this and it will be hard to find more," Wang added.

And it turned out the film more than fulfilled the audience expectations. The producers of “The Wandering Earth” are certainly looking to make a good deal of profit from it. China Film Corporation, one of its major producers, expects revenue between 95 million and 105 million yuan (14 million to 15.5 million U.S. dollars). Audiences may be ready for more.

“Most of our assumptions about sci-fi movies were acquired from Hollywood blockbusters. So it's rather refreshing to see Chinese elements and Chinese values in the story. I think this is the right direction for Chinese filmmakers. They have to supply their own distinct stuff in order to contribute to and earn their place in international cinema,” film critic Li Xingwen commented.