Death on the Nile Sinks at Chinese Box Office

By Russ Burlingame
Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile disappointed in China, coming in fourth at the box office behind three Chinese movies that had already been in theaters for a while. Earning just $5.9 million for the weekend, the movie has now earned around $75 million globally against a reported $90 million budget. The film stars Branagh as iconic detective Hercule Poirot, reprising his role from the unexpected blockbuster Murder on the Orient Express, which came out in 2017 and grossed more than $350 million against a $55 million budget. This puts pressure on Uncharted and The Batman, both releasing next month, to perform at the Chinese box office, given that few major U.S. releases have been big hits there since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even those two films could cannibalize one another’s weekends, since Uncharted is opening on March 14 and The Batman drops on March 18, less than a week later. Still, given the massive projections for The Batman and the way Uncharted overperformed this weekend, it seems at least American consumers are embracing big-budget tentpoles in theaters again.
The movies that beat out Death on the Nile at the box office include Battle of Lake Changjin 2, which earned $19.8 million, taking its three-week total to $589.2 million, followed by Too Cool to Kill ($17.4 million) and Nice View ($11.3 million), per numbers from Artisan Gateway data (via The Hollywood Reporter).
Given the fact that Murder on the Orient Express was something of a sleeper hit, without the enormous marketing budget or built-in fan base of blockbusters like The Batman or any of the Marvel movies that have blown up in 2021 and 2022, the modest box office haul for Death on the Nile may contribute to a feeling that some cinemaphiles have expressed: it’s possible movie theaters haven’t really “bounced back” from Covid-19, but that certain gigantic, IP-driven movies are largely immune to audiences’ aversion to going to the movies in the midst of the pandemic. Whether that is because audiences are convinced those movies are best seen on the big screen, or just that they know the films will be spoiled on social media shortly after release, is anybody’s guess.
Have you seen Death on the Nile yet? What did you think? Sound off in the comments below.
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