Earning 76.4 million yuan (.06 million) during its first weekend in the Chinese mainland, biographical sports drama Dangal is now the second highest-earning Indian film in China.
Premiering Friday, the award-winning film starring Aamir Khan did not have conditions in its favor: It only had a 13.3 percent screen share, less than 1 percent higher than the screen share of Chinese film Shock Wave, which was on its eighth day in theaters, and much lower than the 43.9 percent of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, which also released that day.
However, while most works tend to see a decline in screen share on consecutive days, Dangal's continued to climb. On Monday, the film's screen share had risen to 17.7 percent and is estimated to reach 19 percent by Wednesday. Extremely positive audience reception together with a high seat occupancy rate is one of the main reasons behind this increase: The film currently has a 9.3/10 on Chinese media review site Douban, making it the highest-graded Indian film in the mainland. Additionally, its occupancy rating for Saturday and Sunday was higher than 33 percent, while Guardians' highest occupancy rating over the weekend was just 24.7 percent.
On the way to No.1
Dangal is well on the way to setting a new record for Indian film in China.
A total of 10 Indian films, including US, UK and India co-production Dredd, have been imported into the mainland since 2010.
While Bollywood boasts a large number of productions every year, Indian films have been largely neglected in China over the past few decades. For example, the 2010 thriller My Name is Khan was the highest-grossing film outside of India that year, but it only made half a million yuan in China. A similar case happened with Baahubali: The Beginning. The epic fantasy earned a total of .94 million in international markets, among which the Chinese mainland, the world's second largest market, contributed only about 7.47 million yuan (.08 million).
While the average Indian film's gross in the mainland is often around 20 million yuan, PK, the fantasy romance film that hit theaters in the mainland in 2015, is currently the highest-earning Indian film with a total of 118.18 million yuan.
As of Monday noon, Dangal has earned 81 million yuan at the mainland box office, leaving it roughly 37 million yuan short of PK's record. With its 29.5 million yuan take on Saturday and 33 million yuan take on Sunday combined with its rising screen share, it is highly likely Dangal will overtake PK.
Yet, entering the work week, the film's daily take is sure to decrease. Couple this with a number of new films coming out this Friday, Dangal will still need a lot of support to cross the finishing line.
Indian films were once well-known in the mainland. Most people in their 50s and 60s are very familiar with works like Awara and Caravan, which were shown in the mainland during the 1970s and 1980s. However, after the 1980s, Indian films pretty much disappeared from the mainland market until the 21st century, causing them to be practically forgotten by moviegoers.
The impact of Dangal's success goes beyond the box office. The film is significant because it has helped create a favorable impression of Indian films among young Chinese audiences, who have grow up watching Hollywood blockbusters but are now looking for something different.
"Watched Dangal last night. The unattractive name [Let's Wrestle, Dad in Chinese] does not do the film justice," Chen Jiali, 22, told the Global Times on Sunday.
The good impression Dangal made on Chen has inspired her to seek out more Indian films, such as PK.
Li, a 32-year-old IT engineer from Shanghai, also applauded Dangal.
A fan of action films, especially the X-Men franchise, Li said that she also wants to see films that have "deep thoughts," which is something that she feels domestic Chinese films lack.
Another factor behind Dangal's success comes down to the appeal of Indian star Aamir Khan, who has made quiet a name for himself in China over the years.
Khan has played the lead role in three films that have screened in China over the past few years: 3 Idiots (2011), Dhoom 3 (2014) and PK (2015). After PK, Khan became one of the most recognizable Indian actors in China.
To build up his popularity in the country, Khan and his promotional team have increased his link with the Chinese market.
In 2015, Khan came to the mainland for the first time to promote PK in Shanghai. During the 2017 Beijing International Film Festival in April, Aamir Khan came for a second time, during which time he traveled between Beijing and Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan Province. He also established an official social media account on Sina Weibo and took part in several live streams during his time in China.
Now that Dangal is currently in theaters, Khan updates his Weibo almost every day.