Producers of the film Asura, the most expensive ever produced in China, have pulled the movie from theaters after it bombed in its first weekend at the box office. According to producers, the movie fell victim to a trolling campaign similar to those unleashed against recent Hollywood productions like Black Panther and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The first film in a planned trilogy, Asura tells the story of a mythical realm endangered by a coup from a lesser heavenly kingdom.
Producers Alibaba Pictures, Zhenjian Film Studio and Ningxia Film Group spent over $100 million on the film, the first time such a large sum has ever been spent on a Chinese production. Reportedly shot in seven locations around China, Asura was directed by Peng Zhang, a celebrated stunt coordinator who's worked on Hollywood movies like Ant-Man and the Twilight films. Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings costume designer Ngila Dickson provided the costumes for the fantasy film, whose story is derived from Buddhist mythology.
What was supposed to be China's first-ever natively produced big-budget blockbuster has now become the nation's first big-budget flop. Business Insider reports that producers have elected to pull Asura from theaters after it made just $7.1 million in its first weekend. A representative for Zhenjian Film Studio denied the movie was pulled because of poor box office performance, insisting that producers just want to make some changes to the film before putting it back in theaters.
While denying bad box office was to blame for the movie being pulled, producers also claim that Asura was the victim of a deliberate campaign to lower the film's scores on China's most popular ticketing apps and review aggregator. Such campaigns have been directed against American films in the past, most notably Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which found itself the victim of Rotten Tomatoes sabotage after some fans objected to how the movie's story and casting were handled. The 2018 blockbuster Black Panther also came under fire from an organized group of fans with less-than-honorable motives. But neither of those movies saw any significant impact to their box office, as both went on to top the $600 million mark in the US.
Indeed, Chinese tracking firms claim bad marketing was largely to blame for Asura's massive box office under-performance. In an unprecedented move, producers have elected to pull Asura rather than let it flounder at the box office. Big-budget American films of course often undergo major changes, and even huge reshoots as in the case of movies like Solo: A Star Wars Story and Justice League, but never would a studio pull a movie after release and attempt to rework it. History would indicate that Asura has no chance to become a hit now that audiences have rejected it, and it's safe to say the planned trilogy now likely will not come to fruition.
Source: Business Insider