WHOOPS: Film Execs Confused Yuan With Dollars When Claiming That 'Looper' Earned More In China

Photo: Sony Pictures

It was supposed to be the moment the Chinese box office raised its head above the parapet and began its climb towards replacing the US as the world’s largest cinemagoing audience. In reality, it appears to have been a basic accounting mistake: the Rian Johnson science fiction film Looper did not, after all, post a higher figure in China than in north America when it debuted in multiplexes at the weekend.Film industry blog Deadline’s original report had suggested Looper took $23-$25m in China, a figure which compared favourably with the US bow of $20.8m (£12.9m). Analysts reasoned that Johnson’s tale of time-travelling hitmen, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, had been boosted by its status as a US-Chinese co-production and several scenes and characters based in the far east. In order to placate Chinese partners, large sequences were relocated from the US to China – which, 60 years in the future, has become the world’s greatest superpower – and Chinese actor Qing Xu was added to the cast as Willis’s wife.

In fact, officials who reported the Chinese box office simply mixed up yuan and dollars at several sites. The true Chinese box office may have been as low as $5-7m, Deadline reports, and the film may not even have opened at No 1 in the country.

Such a dramatic turnaround, at the very least, highlights the fledgling nature of box-office reporting in China in comparison with the US, where grosses have been a part of the Hollywood conversation ever since films such as Jaws and Star Wars ushered in the blockbuster era in the mid-1970s. The delay in correcting the erroneous data is thought to be due to a Chinese national holiday.

China’s box office is increasing exponentially as the country builds thousands of new multiplexes each year to meet demand, and Hollywood fare often performs spectacularly due to lack of competition – only 20 or so non-Chinese films are allowed to screen there annually. The country recently overtook Japan as the second-largest cinemagoing audience, and Hollywood film-makers such as James Cameron have been scrambling to set up Chinese bases. Nevertheless, it seems the nation’s box office is not quite yet ready to take on the US, after all.

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.