American audiences have rarely shown much interest in movies from other countries. They don’t like to read, goes the line. But Hollywood doesn’t always make the highest grossing movies worldwide. Lately it’s not even been close. Indeed, if you look at the charts for the highest grossing movies worldwide this year, F9, America’s top draw, only came in silver.
TOP WORLDWIDE BOX OFFICE 2021
1. HI MOM ($841M)
2. F9 ($716M)
3. DETECTIVE CHINATOWN 3 ($699M)
4. GODZILLA VS KONG ($467M)
5. BLACK WIDOW ($377M)
6. SHANG-CHI ($327M)
7. FREE GUY ($302M)
8. A QUIET PLACE PART II ($297M)
9. CRUELLA ($233M)
10. JUNGLE CRUISE ($204M)
— Exhibitor Relations Co. (@ERCboxoffice) September 22, 2021
Right now, with only a few months left in the year, the world’s highest grossing movie — and by a fair amount — is called Hi, Mom. According to the IMDb, it’s about a woman who “travels back in time to befriend her own mother in an attempt to make her life better.” It’s also, incidentally, the highest-grossing movie ever made by a female film director credited by herself.
You may not have heard of Hi, Mom. In fact, right now it hasn’t even opened in America. As per Box Office Mojo, it’s only played Australia, New Zealand, and its native China (as well as Hong Kong). But in China alone it grossed a whopping $821 million.
To put that in perspective, F9 only grossed $172 million in America. Its worldwide tally is $716 million, “only” $209 million of that from China. That’s to say Chinese audiences preferred Hi, Mom to the ninth Fast and/or Furious movie almost four times over.
But F9 opened in the midst of a pandemic, albeit when cases were relatively low. So let’s put that into perspective in another way: Avengers: Endgame, the highest grossing movie ever (not adjusted for inflation) grossed $858 million of its $2.7 trillion haul from America. In other words, Americans loved Avengers: Endgame almost as much as Chinese audiences loved Hi, Mom.
China is huge nation and they love movies even more than Americans. Some of those movies are from America. But China also has a law that only so many foreign movies can play there. The rest have to be native-made. They also did a better job handling the pandemic. In fact, last year, when much of the world’s movie theaters were shuttered or infrequently visited, including in America, four of the year’s Top 10 highest grossing movies worldwide were from China. (And the highest grossing one was from Japan.)
Hi, Mom isn’t the only Chinese blockbuster on this year’s list. The third slot — well ahead of Godzilla vs. Kong — is Detective Chinatown 3, the threequel in a very profitable buddy film series. It also hasn’t played America yet, though its two predecessors did. It even features the great Thai ass-kicker Tony Jaa! So when Detective Chinatown 3 and Hi, Mom open in what are likely very select theaters in America at some point, maybe go check them out. See what audiences from other nations think is a great night out at the movies. If they’re good enough to outgross most of the best Hollywood has to offer, they’re probably not bad.