Greta Gerwig’s Barbie film has defied the recent trend of Hollywood tentpoles struggling in China by gaining traction as a word-of-mouth hit in the world’s second-largest movie market. Despite China’s increasing rejection of major Western blockbusters lately, strong buzz from audiences has propelled Barbie to find an enthusiastic following in the country.
The Margot Robbie-starring Barbie saw a turnaround in its second weekend in China, overcoming a soft start to find an audience in the world’s second-largest film market. Despite debuting to a modest $8 million opening against tough local competition, strong word of mouth and critical praise helped give Barbie a boost in its sophomore frame.
This positive momentum defied expectations that Barbie would fade fast in China like other recent Hollywood tentpoles such as Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. Barbie’s ability to connect with Chinese moviegoers after a weak launch suggests robust staying power rare for a Western film in today’s China box office. The unique Barbie brand and appeal to multiple demographics, including families, may be key strengths distinguishing it in China’s crowded marketplace going forward.
Unlike recent Hollywood tentpoles that have struggled in China, Barbie has defied the odds to gain strong word-of-mouth and critical praise in the market. With excellent scores on major Chinese review sites like Maoyan and Douban, Barbie saw its screen count surge from 9,000 on opening weekend to 36,000 in its second frame. This expansion drove a minuscule 2nd-weekend drop, with Barbie’s China total reaching $25.5 million so far.
Barbie’s themes of feminism and LGBTQ+ representation have surprisingly gotten past Chinese censors. The film’s penetrating social discourse and empowerment message have made it a darling among Chinese feminists urging others to see it.
While Barbie won’t match its worldwide totals, projections of a $36 million final China tally would be a major win given the market’s recent cold shoulder to Hollywood. Local epic Creation of the Gods I again topped the chart in its second week with $57.6 million for a $155.5 million cume. With Barbie building an enthusiastic audience, it shows the potential for certain Hollywood films to still thrive in China by resonating culturally.