‘Top Gun: Maverick,’ ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ and ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’
Paramount, Universal and Disney
Top Gun: Maverick, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Jurassic World Dominion have earned $3 billion global worldwide, with just 4% of that ($132 million for Jurassic World 3) coming from China.
As we wait for the Thursday morning preview of the big ones for Marvel’s Thor: Love and Thunder, I wanted to take a moment to note the comparatively under-the-radar blow-out success of Universal and Amblin’s Jurassic World Dominion. As of yesterday, the $185 million threequel has earned $342 million domestic and (presuming the 40/60 domestic/overseas split remains intact) around $850 million worldwide. That includes around $132 million in China from a $53 million opening weekend. The film may not crack $1 billion worldwide primarily due to a downturn in China (which, skipping ahead, is more about China than Jurassic) and no revenue from Russia. It has already passed the $318-$336 million likes of Iron Man, Deadpool 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Joker, Aquaman, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man 3 with far less free media coverage. Its global total will soon pass the $854-$881 million likes of Thor: Ragnarök, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Venom and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
However, Jurassic World 3 is on track to earn around five times its $185 million budget despite “only” making $132 million in China. Yes, that’s 41% less than Jurassic World ($227 million from a $99 million launch in 2015) and 49% less than Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ($261 million from a $111 million debut in 2018). However, A) it’s the third-biggest Hollywood grosser in China since 2019 (behind F9 with $206 million and Godzilla Vs. Kong with $188 million) and B) its 2.5x weekend-to-final multiplier is solid for a Hollywood export and leggier than the last two installations. I will again argue that the “mere” $132 million total, on par with Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation in 2018 and Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 2019, is more about China’s decreasing interest (be it genuine or government-orchestrated) in Hollywood bigies. But it beats the respective $17 million and $25 million totals for Uncharted and The Batman.
China has its own (often excellent) would-be tentpoles which have been pulling once unthinkable ($385 million for Monster Hunt, $550 million for The Mermaid, $854 million for Wolf Warrior II, $700 million for The Wandering Earth, $912 million for The Battle of Lake Changjin, etc.) Chinese grosses since 2015. Conversely, the recent decline in Hollywood-specific revenue has come at a cost, with China’s overall box office down 38% for the first half of 2022. Spider-Man: No Way Home , Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Uncharted, The Batman and No Time to Die have become global hits with little to no help from China. For years, the media and the industry have frankly swallowed the falsehood that Hollywood needed China to reach maximum box office potential, even while 90% of the movies that broke big in China (think Transformers: Age of Extinction, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Zootopia, Aquaman, etc.) were the same ones that broke out worldwide.
There are exceptions. Think xXx: Return of Xander Cage (which earned $164 million out of $385 million in China on an $80 million budget) or Ready Player One ($218 million out of $585 million on a $175 million budget), for whom strong Chinese Großes pushed a big -budget movie’s global result from “nay” to “yay.” There are others, like Rampage ($156 million out of $430 million) or War for the Planet of the Apes ($116 million/$491 million), where China pushed the global cume to “Yup, it’s a hit.” $113 million wasn’t enough to make Alita: Battle Angel a hit with $405 million. Nor was $220 million (from a $156 million Wed-Sun debut) sufficient to make Warcraft a franchise with $440 million on a $165 million budget. Strong Chinese sequels tricked Hollywood into thinking that Terminator: Genisys ($441 million global) and Pacific Rim ($411 million) merited sequels, but Dark Fate ($252 million) and Uprising ($290 million) exposed the lie.
Hollywood has recently thrived with “no China needed” results for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($950 million), Spider-Man: No Way Home ($1.9 billion) and Top Gun: Maverick (likely around $1.25 billion). They’ve also relished well the “more than good enough with lower-than-hoped Chinese box office” grosses for The Batman ($770 million), Jurassic World Dominion (around $900-$925 million by the end) and Uncharted ($400 million) . 2022 could be when Hollywood finally gives up its proverbial addiction to often superficial (Hollywood often only gets 25% of the gross versus around 50% everywhere else) Chinese box office potential. We’ll see if the only other “Huge in China?” 2022 release, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water, pulls Avengers: Endgame-level ($620 million in 2019) or even Furious 7-level ($392 million in 2015) and complicates this conversation. If so, Hollywood should learn what it should have learned in 2010, that Avatar’s then-massive $209 million gross was about Avatar.
Warner Bros. would still prefer Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam to make more in China than the $25 million earned by The Batman and Wonder Woman 1984. They would prefer Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom to reach closer to Aquaman ($298 million in 2018) than Shazam! ($43 million, hence Shazam 2 opening days after Avatar 2), although the $90-$95 million gross of Wonder Woman and Batman v Superman may now be “aspirational.” Ditto Fast X, even while China rejected the continuity and retcon-filled F9 as quickly as they did Detective Chinatown 3 ($685 million from a record $399 million opening weekend). The Meg 2: The Trench surely would like a repeat of The Meg’s $145 million domestic/$155 million Chinese/$530 million worldwide total. Hence Wolf Warrior II and The Wandering Earth’s Wu Jing starring alongside Jason Statham. However, the tentpole smashes of 2022 may allow Hollywood to again view China as “just” a potential cherry atop an already successful sundae.
Now Hollywood may have to find another excuse as to why their blockbusters aren’t appropriately inclusive. I have faith that they will quickly find one.