Good news, Hollywood. After years of banning American summer blockbusters, China is now letting several foreign movies in during the peak season–a critical move that could bump the films’ bottom lines.
In an unprecedented move, Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadowsand Warner Bros.’ The Legend of Tarzan will see July Chinese release dates, while Universal’sThe Secret Life of Pets and Ice Age: Collision Course will find August debuts in the country.
The change could significantly boost the box office of those films–and shows how desperate local forces are to offset sluggish ticket sales in the second quarter of 2016. (For the first time in years, China’s box office intake shrank in Q2, down 5% from the same time last year.)
The historic summer policy, known as a “domestic movie protection period,” aims to give local films a free run during the summer so they can make money without competition from Hollywood tentpoles. The months of July and August are typically a cash cow: Kids are off school and a captive audience.
Last year’s summer black out was a roaring success for the domestic industry. China-madeMonster Hunt grossed $385.2 million to beat out Furious 7 as the highest-grossing film ever in the nation. Other months in 2015 proved lucrative for Hollywood films: Furious 7 banked 25% of its $1.5 billion global total in the nation, while Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultroneach made over $220 million in the country. Studios are not allowed to market foreign films in China until they get a release date; for the lucky few summer tentpoles that have since secured one, there’s huge potential in a China release.
It won’t be the first time U.S.-made films have made it in to the country during a blackout. The country imposes a similar ban on foreign films during February’s Chinese New Year and during a national holiday in October. DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda 3, an east-west co-production with Oriental DreamWorks, was able to run through the 2016 Chinese New Year blackout period. It grossed $154 million, or a third of its $518.9 million worldwide total, in the nation.