Monster Hunt may be the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time (with a few reservations), but it’s apparently tanked pretty hard in the US — after opening in North American theatres the movie achieved all of $21,000 in its debut weekend.
This might count as a slight disappointment considering that Monster Hunt has earned 2.43 billion yuan ($370 million) at the Chinese box office.
In January Monster Hunt opened in 44 US theaters to little fanfare. The film averaged less than $500 per theater and was pulled after a week. As ComScore media analyst Paul Dergarabedian puts it thusly: “It’s probably the biggest movie most people in North America have never heard of.”
It’s proven to be a disappointment for independent distribution company FilmRise, who acquired the rights to screen the film in the US. In partnership with West Hollywood company Asia Releasing, FilmRise promoted Monster Hunt heavily to the Chinese community, including campaigns on Weibo.
They also went out of their way to edit the film for American sensibilities, wisely cutting out one scene depicting puppies being sold to a meat market, the LA Times reports.
But FilmRise’s efforts produced few results — and it’s believed that online piracy played a big part in the failure. Since Monster Hunt was released last July, the Chinese market in the US had mostly already gotten their hands on it.
“Originally we were targeting this thing toward the Chinese market, but apparently a lot of Chinese folks have already seen the film,” FilmRise president Jack Fisher lamented.
“We were told at the beginning that this was a long shot,” admitted vice president Bob Jason.
But all hope is not lost as long as the home video market is still an option, though plans are tentative.
“We’re not in a rush to put it out there. It’s going to be a slow build,” Fisher merely said.
For now, FilmRise plans to give it another whack, moving Monster Hunt to independent theatres. It’ll be showing this weekend at the Film Bar in Phoenix and New York’s Pelham Picture House, if you’re in the area.
Meanwhile, the recent Detective Chinatown enjoyed a better performance in the US, albeit still taking in less than $500,000.
Apparently martial-arts is the only genre of Chinese film the US market will welcome with open arms.
With all that said, Monster Hunt still holds a respectable 6.2 rating on IMDb and a 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s what the Wall Street Journal had to say about it:
The film is far from perfect, but it’s certainly ambitious, often entertaining and, compared to the feeble competition from new American films of the moment, a singing, dancing, stomping and chomping “Citizen Kane.”
Maybe check it out?