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Actor John Cena's embarrassing capitulation to communist China last week did not produce the outcome that Hollywood executives had hoped.
What is the background?
Cena, of course, posted a video to Sena Wiebo, China's Twitter-like social media platform, apologizing to Chinese fans for calling Taiwan a "country" in a recent interview promoting "F9," the latest installment of the "Fast & Furious" franchise. The mea culpa was delivered in Mandarin, the official language of China.
Who prompted Cena to apologize is not clear, whether his own instincts or the demands of Hollywood executives who depend on Chinese ticket sales. However, the former WWE star, whose foray into the movie industry has been successful thus far, was immediately rebuked by Americans for, as it appeared, bowing down to China.
Disputed claims over Taiwan stem from the Chinese civil war in the last century, which was ultimately a fight between communism and democracy. China maintains its claims over Taiwan, yet the island is self-governed and has declared its own sovereignty.
What are the details?
Despite Cena's apology, ticket sales for "F9" plummeted in China following his Chinese nationalist faux pas, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
In fact, the movie generated $136 million in China during the opening weekend, but earned only $20.8 this past weekend, the second weekend the movie was played in Chinese theaters. That's a massive 85% decrease in ticket revenue.
And, despite the successful opening weekend, "F9" is now predicted to earn slightly more than just half of the two preceding "Fast & Furious" movies in China.
From the Hollywood Reporter:
After two laps, the Vin Diesel/John Cena action flick has totaled $185.3 million. That's slightly ahead of where franchise spinoff Hobbs & Shaw was sitting at a similar point in its China run, but far weaker than the preceding franchise mainstays Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious, which topped out at $390.9 million in 2015 and $392.8 million in 2017, respectively.
Chinese ticketing app Maoyan currently projects F9 to finish at $211.9 million — certainly not a number to slouch at but far inferior to the franchise's recent heights, especially since China's theatrical market is back to full earning capacity (See the $825 million earned by local comedy hit Hi, Mom in February).
Reaction from Chinese fans to Cena's apology almost foreshadowed the hard crash in ticket sales.
"Please say in Chinese, 'Taiwan is part of China,' otherwise we won't accept [your apology]," the top comment on the video said, Newsweek reported.
"Then at least say Taiwan is China's. You're avoiding the issue and talking nonsense. You can't benefit from [the Chinese market] and trash it at the same time," another critic said.
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Chris Enloe is a staff writer for Blaze News