The decision of Hollywood producers to have a simultaneous opening day in China with North America has often yielded positive results. A growing number of foreign films, such as “Power Rangers,” are hoping to benefit from the second-largest movie market in the world.
But it could also be embarrassing for the producer when the China box-office results are even higher than North America. Such is the case for “Ghost in the Shell” by Paramount which had a $21.4 million weekend earning in China, bigger than the $18.6 million in North America, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
At the same time, the movie topped China’s box office, earning almost twice as “Kong: Skull Island” which took $11.2 million on its third week. However, its opening weekend debut in China pales in comparison to “Resident Evil: The Final Chapters’” $94 million and “Pacific Rim’s” $45.3 million.
The weak performance of “Ghost in the Shell” is due to poor reviews and a whitewashing controversy. The movie has a cast mostly of Japanese characters because it is set in a future version of Tokyo. However, for the lead role, American actress Scarlett Johansson was cast, not a Japanese actress, Polygon reported.
Her role, as Major, is that of a cyborg. A Japanese viewer pointed out that the name of the character, Motoko Kusanagi, although Japanese, is not her original name. Her physical form is also an assumed one which dashes the critics’ demand that an Asian actress must portray the role, Polygon reported.
Kyle Davies, head of domestic distribution at Paramount, noted that the movie, directed by Mamoru Oshii, is important to Japanese viewers since it is based on a Japanese anime movie. “So you're always trying to thread that needle between honoring the source material and make a movie for a mass audience. That's challenging, but clearly the reviews didn't help,” he said.