Chinese sci-fi movie 'The Wandering Earth' pulls in $440 million in 10 days

A poster of Chinese film "The Wandering Earth" is pictured at a cinema in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China February 11, 2019. Picture taken February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s first science fiction blockbuster, “The Wandering Earth”, has raked in 3 billion yuan ($443 million) in ticket sales in less than 10 days, putting it on track to become the country’s highest-grossing film.

Based on a story by author Liu Cixin, the movie about a group of Chinese astronauts trying to save the world from the orbit of an unstable sun premiered on Feb. 5, the first day of the Lunar New Year holiday.

“It’s a genre that most Chinese people have never seen, and it really touched people,” said Wu Jian, a Beijing-based film analyst with Alibaba Pictures, adding that the film drew families into cinemas during the traditional reunion period.

Figures posted on Thursday on the film’s official account on China’s Twitter-like Weibo show the sales were reached in 9 days and 16 hours, which analysts and media said broke a record of 10 days and 15 hours set by “Wolf Warrior 2”.

The patriotic Rambo-style “Wolf Warrior 2” is China’s highest-grossing movie, hitting 5.7 billion yuan in box office sales last year.

Analysts forecast ticket sales of “The Wandering Earth” could hit 5 billion yuan or more, with Wu saying it had grabbed eyeballs from comedies such as Ning Hao’s “Crazy Alien”, Stephen Chow’s “The New King of Comedy”, and Han Han’s “Pegasus”.

The film also figured in China’s foreign ministry briefing this week.

“I know the hottest movie now is ‘The Wandering Earth’, I don’t know if you have watched or not, I’d recommend it,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, while replying to a query about a film whose premiere was canceled.

Movie box office revenue in China rose 9 percent last year to 61 billion yuan, a slower pace than the year before, as the government cracked down on tax evasion in the industry and tightened rules on content.

Reporting by Pei Li and Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Clarence Fernandez