Disappointing re-release of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ shows the era of epic film is coming to an end
Published: Apr 22, 2021 05:36 PM
Promotional material of The Lord of the Rings trilogy Photo: Sina Weibo

Promotional material of The Lord of the Rings trilogy Photo: Sina Weibo

Surprisingly, the re-release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in Chinese theaters has been a big disappointment, which does not bode well for the re-release of the sequel film The Two Towers on Friday. It seems that the era of the epic film is coming to an end amid today's fast-paced society where interesting short videos and "feel good" TV works have changed people's habit and tastes in film and TV shows.

As of Thursday, The Fellowship of the Ring has only grossed 42.21 million yuan ($6 million) since it was re-released on April 16, a big gap compared with James Cameron's Avatar, which opened to 136 million yuan during it first re-release weekend in China in March. The Two Towers, which is scheduled to be released on Friday, has earned 24.01 million yuan in pre-sales so far, according to China's ticketing platform Maoyan.

The disappointing performance of The Fellowship of the Ring is partly because the delayed digital prints of the film in theaters, which lead to a low screen share of 1.8 percent on the day of its re-release.

The gap is also due to the time when they were produced and the rapid changes taken place in the global film and television market. Many Chinese moviegoers flocked to theaters to watch Avatar because they wanted to relive the nostalgic feeling of watching the sci-fi blockbuster a decade ago. The premiere of The Lord of the Rings was shown two decades ago, but the fans of the film are now in their 30s and 40s and no longer the mainstream audience. 

According to data, audiences under 30 make up the majority of the Chinese movie-going audience today. In an era when short videos and "feel good" dramas and films are flooding social media, three-hour-long fantasy adventure films are not their cup of tea.

Many Chinese netizens who watched The Fellowship of the Ring have complained on social media that the film is too long, and the story too muddled and the ending confusing, which made them want to fall asleep. Some have even given the film a single star on film review sites. It is clear that Chinese moviegoers have a lower tolerance for works in which they have to take a long time to figure out the plot and the relationships between characters. 

Over the past two decades, the box-office record of domestic films has far surpassed that of imported films. The obsession with Hollywood special effects is over as works with good stories and "feel good" points like Netflix's The Queen's Gambit are becoming more popular among audiences. It seems that the age of the epic blockbuster is coming to an end.

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