“The Wandering Earth,” billed as China’s first major science-fiction film, emerged as box-office champion during the Chinese New Year holiday, a peak movie-going period in the country.
Adapted from a novel by Liu Cixin, author of the popular sci-fi trilogy “The Three-Body Problem,” the much-anticipated movie imagines a future in which humanity — facing the threat of an unstable sun — thrusts the earth out of its orbit in search of a new home in another star system. The centuries-long voyage is derailed by a malfunction in the engine system propelling the earth forward and Jupiter’s gravity pulls the planet toward what looks to be imminent destruction.
Co-produced by Alibaba Pictures, it has raked in more than RMB 3.2 billion (USD $472 million) since its opening on Feb. 2, becoming the biggest winner in the lucrative CNY box-office season. “The Wandering Earth” also got a limited run in North America, screening exclusively in 33 IMAX 3D theaters on Feb. 5, three days ahead of its wider release. While it did not disclose a figure, IMAX said the movie set a new record as its highest-grossing Chinese release in the market, with U.S. box office alone reaching $2,575,656 as of Tuesday, Feb. 12, according to Box Office Mojo.
Alibaba Pictures co-financed five out of the eight films released that week, including writer-director Han Han’s racing-themed comedy “Pegasus,” Hong Kong actor-director Stephen Chow’s “The New King of Comedy,” Hong Kong writer-director Alan Mak’s crime film “Integrity,” and “Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year.” The combined CNY box office receipts exceeded RMB 5.8 billion, with up to 130 million people going to movie theaters that week, and a record-breaking 91% of tickets purchased online.
Alibaba Pictures, the film-financing and production arm of Alibaba Group, tapped its movie-ticketing platform, Taopiaopiao, to co-distribute the film, while using its ecosystem to promote the film on the landing pages of e-wallet Alipay and e-commerce apps Taobao and Tmall, as well as placing full-screen advertisements on its other apps, Youku, Damai, Koubei and Ele.me. To help the movie reach the right audience, Alibaba Pictures said it leveraged Beacon, its all-in-one solution for maximizing efficiencies in film advertising, performance monitoring and consumer metrics, to inform its distribution and marketing strategies.
Ahead of the release, Alifish, Alibaba’s cross-platform licensing business unit, partnered with Chinese footwear brand Onemix to create 20 pairs of new, co-branded “space wandering” shoes for the film’s fans.
“The Wandering Earth” is one of the latest blockbuster hits to receive financial backing and marketing support from Alibaba Pictures, following last year’s “Operation Red Sea,” “Dying to Survive,” “Project Gutenberg” and “Hello Mr. Billionaire,” the company said.
It comes as the unit looks to roll out a series of quality content, with the goal of co-producing 20 blockbusters in the next five years. “Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year,” co-produced with Entertainment One, is the first film to come out of the initiative. It was the first full-length feature film based on the beloved U.K. cartoon character, in addition to being created specifically for Chinese audiences.