‘Dune,’ ‘No Time to Die’ Become First Imported Films to Get Theatrical Extensions in China During Pandemic

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Chinese film authorities on Wednesday granted both “Dune” and “No Time to Die” one month longer in local theaters, giving the Hollywood blockbusters a full two months on the big screen in the world’s largest film market.

The former will now run through Dec. 21 and the latter through Dec. 28.

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Films are given a default one-month theatrical run in China, which can be extended to two months if the title is proving to be particularly commercially successful. Longer runs beyond that are reserved for propaganda films whose success is seen as politically expedient.

During the height of the pandemic from July 2020 to April 2021, however, digital cinema packages for imported films were sent with keys that lasted three months, giving releases a bit more breathing room to help with market recovery, according to local reports. This marks the first instance since the start of the pandemic where film keys have been actively extended an extra month, they said.

That means that since May, no imported film has had more than a month in Chinese theaters — even those that would typically be expected to receive that special treatment. To protect the important political milestone of the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party’s founding on July 1, “F9: The Fast Saga” was only given a month in theaters out from its May 21 release, despite grossing $204 million. Similarly, while “Free Guy” gathered $94.8 million-worth of momentum after its late August release, it wasn’t granted a second month as to protect the local films of the Oct. 1 National Day holiday release window.

While the news of the extension is certainly welcome, an extra month in Chinese theaters isn’t expected to bring either “Dune” or “No Time to Die” significantly more business. As of Wednesday, “Dune” has grossed $71.5 million (RMB456 million) against a projected $39 million (RMB249 million) run in China, while “No Time to Die” has grossed $59.3 million (RMB378 million) against a projected $62.9 million (RMB401 million) run, according to the Maoyan ticketing platform.

The former currently ranks the seventh most successful imported film of 2021, and the latter the fourth.

Extensions for both films were announced on the same day, just as their release dates had also been announced simultaneously, despite standing a week apart.

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