Sony has revealed that 3000 Pictures’ “Where the Crawdads Sing” will open in China beginning Nov. 25, a rare booking for a Hollywood film as the nation has cut back on foreign releases.
The Reese Witherspoon-produced melodrama, about a young outcast who finds herself embroiled in a murder trial, has already earned $140.2 million worldwide. That is nearly six times its $24 million production budget in global theatrical revenue alone, so anything from China can be treated as glorified “found money.”
Based on Delia Owens’s bestselling novel, director Olivia Newman and writer Lucy Alibar’s period piece was notable last summer for being among the only mainstream theatrical releases from, for and about women. In a summer ruled by mavericks, minions, superheroes and space rangers, the Daisy Edgar-Jones vehicle opened with $17.25 million debut weekend in mid-July and legged out to $90.2 million domestic.
Partially as a result of the COVID pandemic causing a rush of smaller, often (but not always) non-tentpole films featuring “not a white guy” protagonists (“Turning Red,” “The Lovebirds,” “Run Sweetheart Run,” “Happiest Season,” etc.) being sold or allocated to streaming platforms, this past summer was, theatrically, a mostly testosterone-charged affair.
That left “Crawdads” as essentially the first “big” film about and for women since Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum’s “The Lost City” (which made $190 million worldwide) in late March and essentially the last until Viola Davis’ “The Woman King” ($91 million and counting globally) in mid-September.
How “Where the Crawdads Sing” will perform in China is frankly a coin toss. The vast majority of Hollywood releases have underperformed by pre-COVID standards (“Minions: The Rise of Gru”) or outright tanked (“The Batman”), and waiting until months after the film’s theatrical and DVD/VOD release won’t do it any favors.
That said, we’ve seen examples of non-tentpole films like “Green Book” ($71 million in 2019) and “A Dog’s Purpose” ($88 million in 2017) rebutting conventional wisdom about what Hollywood films play in China.
The success of “Where the Crawdads Sing” was itself a blow to conventional wisdom about what was theatrically-viable amid COVID and the streaming era. Maybe lightning can strike twice.