China's most expensive film pulled after opening weekend

  • Published
Film still from the official trailerImage source, Youtube/AsuraFilmOfficial
Image caption,
The movie features a star-studded Chinese cast

China's big-budget fantasy epic Asura has been pulled from cinemas after a dismal opening weekend.

The 750m yuan ($112m; £85m) film reportedly made less than 50m yuan on its weekend debut.

Asura's plot is based on Chinese mythology and featured leading actors and flashy special effects.

Producers are reportedly planning to rework the movie and release it again at a later date.

Unless the film achieves much greater success the second time round, Asura's $105m loss would make it one of the biggest flops in movie history.

The elaborate fantasy film was backed by some of China's major movie companies: Alibaba Pictures, Zhenjian Film Studio and Ningxia Film Group

Loosely based on Buddhist mythology, the movie tells the story of a shepherd protecting a mythical heavenly realm from attack.

Image source, Youtube/AsuraFilmOfficial
Image caption,
Asura's expensive special effects failed to convince audiences

Before its release, the film was showered with praise by state media, with the China Daily calling it the "most hotly anticipated blockbuster of China's competitive summer season".

During the three days it was showing in cinemas though, it received an abysmal rating on Chinese film review site Douban.

Other top movie flops according to Box Office Mojo:

  • Mars Needs Moms (budget: $150m, total grosses $39m)
  • Stealth (budget: $135m, total grosses $77m)
  • The Alamo (budget: $107m, total grosses $26m)
  • The Adventures of Pluto Nash (budget: $100m, total grosses $7m)
  • Cutthroat Island (budget: $98m, total grosses $10m)

A fresh release?

With China overtaking the US as the world's biggest film market, the plan for Asura was to kick off a major fantasy franchise akin to Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.

In the run-up to its opening weekend, financer Ningxia said they "wanted the film to raise confidence in our own culture and train more domestic talent".

Producers have reportedly suggested the poor box office showing was only part of the reason why the movie was pulled, and that Asura would be reworked and released again.

While Chinese film productions have not typically had the same international reach as Hollywood films, there have been several China-Hollywood co-productions in recent years.

One of the most high-profile was The Great Wall, which cost $150m, although it too disappointed at the box office.