Michael Bay's film, the fourth in the long-running saga about warring races of giant robots, has so far taken a staggering $222.74m in just 10 days. That compares to a total of $222m for Avatar over a two-month period in 2010.
Age of Extinction's success has been fuelled by a campaign to woo Chinese filmgoers which is arguably the most aggressive ever seen by Hollywood. Studio Paramount cast local icons Li Bingbing, the famous actor, and boxing champion Zou Shiming in the film, which also features a number of Chinese landmarks and saw premieres in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. The film has attracted a degree of bemusement in China after clumsy product placement led to American characters clearly drinking the Chinese version of Red Bull during scenes set in Texas.
Paramount's efforts to build relationships with Chinese businesses have not always run smoothly. The famous dragon-shaped Pangu Plaza hotel in Beijing reportedly paid $1.6m to appear in Age of Extinction, then threatened to sue when, they claimed, the hotel did not appear for as long as was originally agreed. The matter was later resolved.
Other editorial decisions appear rather more sinister. A politician representing China's autocratic ruling communist administration appears decisive and resolute in the face of Decepticon attacks in the film, while the democratic USA's chief of staff proves himself a hapless idiot.
The moves appear to have paid off. Age of Extinction has so far made more money in China, the world's second-largest film market, than it has in the US. But some local figures remain displeased by the film's ubiquity. Prior to its release, Zhang Hongsen, chief of film bureau of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, called for cinema owners to ensure local movies were not squeezed out.
With a potential 1.34 billion cinemagoers, China is predicted to overtake the US as the world's biggest box office by 2020, and Hollywood studios are increasingly looking east in an effort to offset sluggish growth back home. The world's most populous nation is currently in the middle of a five-year plan to add 25,000 new cinema screens to cope with demand from an increasingly wealthy population. Growth will also be fostered by the government's 2012 decision to relax the number of foreign movies allowed to screen each year from 20 to 34.
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