‘Man of Steel’ braces for big domestic opening, but will it soar in China?

Warner Bros.’ Superman reboot “Man of Steel” is expected to have a big domestic opening, with prerelease audience surveys suggesting the film could take in $90 million or more over its debut weekend.

The movie, which stars Henry Cavill as Superman and cost about $225 million to produce, also is opening in 24 foreign markets on Friday -- the same day as its stateside bow.

It will debut in 26 additional markets the following weekend, including China, which is the biggest wild card. 2006’s “Superman Returns” took in just $8 million in China -- a small slice of its $191-million foreign box office gross. Since then, things, of course, have changed in the country, which is now the world’s second-largest film market.

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A recent story by the trade publication Variety speculated “Man of Steel” could take in more than $100 million in China. But some question whether Chinese audiences are keen on a deeply American tale.


Mathew Alderson, a Beijing-based entertainment attorney with the law firm Harris & Moure, said he doesn’t expect the film to incite “censorship concerns,” but wondered whether Chinese audiences will embrace the story.

“[It] may well be distasteful to the authorities or unappealing to Chinese audiences by reason of the message it sends about U.S. power,” said Alderson, who hasn’t seen the movie, in an email interview. “Like any people, the Chinese want their own heroes.”

The release of “Man of Steel” in China a scant six days after the U.S. debut should limit Chinese audiences’ access to pirated versions of the picture, which could dampen interest in seeing it in theaters.

Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, is confident the movie, directed by Zack Snyder and co-produced by “The Dark Knight” filmmaker Christopher Nolan, will connect with audiences globally.

“I think this movie works everywhere,” said Robinov in an interview. He said Superman is “a 100% full-blown American character, but the movie is a very broadly appealing film. I don’t think it is American in nature; it involves outer space, it has global impacts in different parts of the world. It’s an emotional film, in terms of the father-son element of the story.”

“Man of Steel” is a key project for Warner Bros., a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. If the movie is successful, it could spawn multiple Superman sequels and possibly lead to a franchise built around the “Justice League” comic book series. (DC Comics’ “Justice League” comics focus on a group of superheroes-- led by Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman -- who take on various supervillains.)

Robinov said his studio is “working toward making films that utilize the full DC universe,” but was mum on plans for a “Justice League” movie.

Earlier this week, a handful of movie blogs reported that Warner Bros. was already moving forward with a “Man of Steel” sequel and the “Justice League” project, but a studio spokesman would not confirm those reports.


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