Chinese films performing well at North American box office, despite limited release

"The Viral Factor" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Viral Factor" Chinese Theatrical Poster

If you don’t live in any of the major North American movie markets like New York or L.A., you might not even realize that Chinese-language films like The Viral Factor and Love in the Buff have received a theatrical release over here. All the same, website Chinese Films reports that these foreign films are doing quite well at the US box office.

China Lion’s Milt Barlow says: “Audiences are looking for fresh modern product and are getting tired of historical dramas. We have doubled our first quarter box office thanks to strong modern product with young actors and directors in the form of ‘The Viral Factor,’ ‘LOVE,’ and ‘Love in the Buff.'”

It’s nice to see someone in the business acknowledging that China’s movie industry relies far too much on historical epics. Sure, The Viral Factor may not have been that great of a movie but it feels like a step in the right direction. There’s a growing sense that American fans of Asian cinema are hungry for more films like Flash Point and The Viral Factor: fast-paced thrill rides set during modern times that attempt to channel the glory days of Hong Kong action.

In contrast, the period piece Flowers of War – which featured a high profile star in Christian Bale and a respected director in Hero‘s Zhang Yimou – earned a dismal $304,000 at the US box office. Meanwhile, the Indonesian action flick The Raid is sitting at $2.5 million after a four week limited release campaign.

Milt Barlow suggests it will take four or five years for US Chinatown audiences to return to their previous high level of movie-attendance. At present, the performance of Chinese films lag behind Indian movies in the US, which is partially due to the fact that Indian blockbusters tend to release “day and date” in America and India. Barlow believes that this synchronous release strategy is a crucial step in guaranteeing Chinese film’s success in the future. Currently, films like Love in the Buff are performing the strongest in traditional markets like L.A., Toronto, San Francisco, and Vancouver.

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