Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Death on the Nile’ Craters at Chinese Box Office

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Walt Disney Motion Pictures

Kenneth Branagh’s lavish detective film Death on the Nile was a crashing failure in its opening weekend in China, earning a paltry $5.9 million.

The film featuring writer Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) opened on Saturday in red China bringing in only $3.9 million. It followed that with a worse $2 million on Sunday, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The Chinese box office take for Branagh’s second time around as the mustachioed detective did not do well in the U.S., either, even as it did many times better than in its Chinese debut. The film, which also stars Armie Hammer and Gal Gadot, brought in $12.9 million for its U.S. opening. Its take is now $25.9 million over two weeks in the U.S., and $75.8. million globally. With a reported $90 million budget, the film may just return its costs.

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The Hollywood studios continue to clamor to get films to open in the Chinese market assuming that it will greatly increasing their earnings. Hollywood is so keen to show in China that they are willing to forfeit their vaunted artistic integrity and bow to Chinese censors.

But if Death on the Nile is any indication, China’s internal films are doing just fine while American releases sit at the bottom of the charts.

Indeed, some of America’s big tentpole films were duds in China over the last few years. Disney’s Mulan, tailored expressly for the Chinese audience, was a bomb. And Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984 also failed there.

Meanwhile, the country’s biggest hit is a retelling of a battle fought during the Korean War that makes Chinese soldiers out to be the heroes. So far, Battle of Lake Changjin II has brought in $589.2 million in China.

Hollywood still has its fingers crossed that some U.S. films can make a splash there. March 14 will see the release of Tom Holland’s Uncharted followed by The Batman on March 18. The studios are hoping that lightning can strike, but signs are not looking good.

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