Lionsgate's Now You See Me 2 debuted to $43.3 million in China, the studio's biggest weekend ever in the country, and that Chinese gross got the magician thriller franchise to $335 million in box office.
Now Lionsgate expects China to also confirm Oscar fave La La Land as a global phenomenon. The Chinese launch comes as Damien Chazelle's magical musical about love-struck Angelenos, budgeted at $30 million and rolled out slowly, topped $300 million in box office worldwide on Tuesday, according to the studio.
Lionsgate expects Chinese audiences to embrace the Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling vehicle - especially romance lovers, as it opens there on Valentine's Day. "The truly wonderful thing about La La Land and its global success is that it has performed equally well around the world. The film is overperforming in nearly every territory and with different campaigns and different rollouts," Erik Feig, co-president of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Predicting box office for romancers is always dicey, and Lionsgate has offered no revenue forecasts for China. But Feig sees the country following a global trend for La La Land.
"Young audiences, older audiences, women, men and teens are all coming out to see the movie and developing emotional connections with Damien Chazelle's timeless but timely story about listening to your heart, following your dreams and daring to love," he said.
Chazelle's follow-up to 2014's Whiplash is an Los Angeles-set musical starring Gosling and Stone as a couple of Hollywood strivers who fall in love. La La Land bowed in Venice and picked up the top audience prize in Toronto on its way to a slew of other award-season nominations and trophies.
That includes the pic leading the Oscar race with 14 nominations, tying the record previously set by All About Eve in 1950 and Titanic in 1997.
The Hollywood studio is betting the movie's stars drive the Chinese box office, as Stone is already known in that market for her star turn in the Amazing Spider-Man franchise, and Chazelle and Gosling in late January visited Beijing to promote La La Land.
Lionsgate also partnered with China Film Group and Joy Pictures to release La La Land, and Joy brought in added local partners like Wanda and Chinese internet giant Tencent Pictures to bring their video and media platforms behind promoting the film.
"Our partners at China Film Group and Joy Pictures are top notch and have done a fantastic job bringing additional strategic and marketing support with Wanda and Tencent," said Feig. "They've secured a wonderful and fitting release date with Valentine's Day, and our talent's presence there is also expected to have an impact," he added.