Discover more from Following the yuan
Weekly #1: Will Avatar 2 tank in China? 🎞 Generative AI for e-commerce 🤖 Marry Qatari prince 👰 | Following the yuan
Avatar 2 will be showing this Friday in China as the country's box office hit 11-year-low in November, will it tank or break new records?
Does everyone remember the last time they were in cinema for Avatar?
The year was 2010*, I was in final year of high school and went with a bunch of friends. I remember sitting next to a boy I liked, I was nervous and the storyline didn’t successfully distract me. Everyone wore the nascent 3D cardboard glasses, and intermittently took them off when we felt the world was spinning during those 3 hours. (*We saw Avatar roughly 2 weeks later than its release in the U.S.)
The presale of Avatar 2 in China is happening in parallel with the easing of zero-Covid.
On Dec. 7, 4 hours of presale only resulted in 1 million yuan ($143,525), which seems negligible for a country that has the world's most movie screens of 82,248 as of 2021. 3 days later, as relaxation of zero-Covid policy caught up with Beijing’s abrupt change of tune, Avatar 2’s presale surpassed 100M yuan and became the first movie title that broke the threshold in 2022 in China.
The movie has already defied the odds by getting government clearance — as Hollywood Reporter noted, the 7 most recent Marvel superhero movies were denied — which I suspect has more or less to do with TSG’s parent company Bona Film Group, a Beijing-based production and investment company being listed on Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
Nonetheless, it’s screening at the best possible time when Chinese consumers were hungry for international content after being deprived cinema access; it’s a big win for the publishers and distributors that also include 20th Century Studios and Director James Cameron’s own studio Lightstorm Entertainment.
In 2010, Avatar broke China’s box office record with 1.34 billion yuan and held it for 4 years. I asked the same bunch of high school friends who I saw the last Avatar with, they say they will watch it because: 1. there’s nothing else to watch and 2. for the old time’s sake. If that’s the popular sentiment, will Avatar 2 break new records?
Other topics that worth noting in China last week:
#Generative AI 🤖
Thanks to ChatGPT, which has become my free therapist, generative AI may get a boost in publicity and VC attention in China.
Marketing tech company Tiaoyue, which uses generative AI to offer FaaS (Function as a Service) products in the form of virtual hosts, recently closed its angel round from ZhenFund 真格基金 and angel+ round from Hina Group 汉能创投 with tens of millions of yuan.
Global consulting firm IDC predicts that China's AI investment is expected to reach $26.69 billion in 2026, accounting for about 8.9% of global investment and ranking 2nd in the world. Use cases of generative AI in China was first proposed by Beijing-based Moviebook, a 13-year-old AI start-up that counts Sensetime and SBCVC (SoftBank’s China arm) as its investors.
Tiaoyue offers both to-business and to-consumer services. If you want to have a digital twin, all you need to provide is:
Pictures via its H5 software if you want a 3D virtual human twin
3-minute video if you want your twin in video form
+ 20 minutes of you reading scripts
I’m tempted given it’s my only chance in life to have a sibling after being born under the one-child policy 🤔
#Marry Qatari Prince 👰
Chinese World Cup fans have been obsessed with the Qatari royal family, especially the 16-year-old Abdulrahman Fahad al-Thani and 44-year-old Jassim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, since the tournament kicked off in late November.
With closeups of his expressive reactions, Abdulrahman was thrusted into the spotlight and Chinese watchers compare him to the mascot “La'eeb”. He entered major Chinese social media platforms in lightning speed, amassing nearly 20 million fans in total since launching on TikTok’s sister app Douyin on Nov. 27 (15M), Xiaohongshu on Nov. 29 (1M) and Kuaishou on Dec 9 (3M).
Another public figure that Chinese fans took notice is Jassim. “He is just as handsome as Beckham!” One user of Xiaohongshu wrote. Yes, and richer than Beckham.
After (too many) female watchers expressed affection for the royals and half-joking said they want to marry into Qatari royal, ex-journalist and one of my favorite fashion influencers Shiliupo felt the need to address the reality of their daydreams: “So many women cannot get out there fast enough.”
Thanks for reading Following the yuan! Subscribe to receive new posts about how else Chinese consumers spend money: