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This year’s recent Oscars ceremony may have ended in shock for many when Green Book took home Best Picture, but the movie's Oscar success has definitely been beneficial. Since the win, Green Book has seen been showing off its “Oscar halo” in 63 markets – including a 121% boost at the domestic box office and has just become No. 1 in China.
That’s right, China loves Green Book! The 2019 Best Picture opened at an impressive $17.2 million opening weekend behind How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (which made $33 million) and Alita: Battle Angel ($24 million) before rising to the top spot on Monday with an overall $25 million by Wednesday, per The Hollywood Reporter. Green Book is now the country’s second highest-grossing Best Picture winner, behind Titanic.
The movie is also scoring seriously high reviews from Chinese critics and moviegoers. For example, the movie received a 9.6 out of 10 rating on Maoyan, a Chinese ticketing app. But wait… Green Book is an all-American story about race relations in the deep South. What about that screams an instant hit for China? There are a few reasons why.
The answer is timing. The Academy Awards are well-followed in China and the Best Picture winner opened in theaters across the country just three days after the telecast. The award show created some effective buzz for Green Book, since the film took home three Oscars out of five nominations – including a second Supporting Actor win for Mahershala Ali and Best Original Screenplay.
Additionally, the richest man in China, tech tycoon and CEO of Alibaba Pictures, Jack Ma, was an investor on Green Book and made it well known to Chinese media. The film studio has also had a hand in investing Mission: Impossible – Fallout and Star Trek Beyond which made $181 and $65 million in China, respectively.
Another contributing factor to Green Book’s success in China is the same reason why the film was met with backlash and controversy over from American audiences. Many have criticized the movie for its mediocre approach in presenting the complexity of race relations and its use of the tiresome “white savoir” trope.
Green Book was also called out by the family of Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali), who called out the movie for being “full of lies” and the film is based off one of the film’s writers Nick Vallelonga recalling his own memories from his father (played by Viggo Mortenson). One important perspective of the race relations movie may seem to be missing due to this.
Many moviegoers in China don’t have intricate understanding of America’s complicated ties with racism, just as with Americans, many of us don’t claim to understand the history of the Chinese people. So what might have seemed “uninspired” to many in Green Book, may have been just China’s speed – as they needed little background knowledge to follow along.
Factors such as these is a good reminder of why some Hollywood movies become hits in unexpected markets and Green Book is the latest example.