A cleaner walks past screens promoting Disney's movie "Mulan" as the film opens in China, at a cinema in Beijing, China September 11, 2020. REUTERS/Florence Lo

Disney's Mulan remake collects US$23.2 million at Chinese box offices

LOS ANGELES: Walt Disney's live-action remake of Mulan pulled in US$23.2 million over the weekend at box offices in China, a slow start for the big-budget epic about a Chinese folk hero in its most important theatrical market.

The debut for Mulan fell short of director Christopher Nolan's Tenet, which grossed US$29.8 million in China a week earlier. Unlike Tenet, Mulan was tailored to draw big audiences in the country.

But Mulan, which cost US$200 million to produce, was hit by political controversy and received mixed reviews in China. It had been set to debut in March until it was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited moviegoing worldwide.

READ: Mulan movie boycott calls grow over scenes filmed in Xinjiang 

"That's a disappointing debut," said Jeff Bock, senior media analyst at Exhibitor Relations. "Disney made this film for Chinese audiences and they saw it pretty much fall flat."

Mulan provoked a backlash on overseas social media, and calls for a boycott, over its star’s support of Hong Kong police and for being partly filmed in the Xinjiang region, where China’s clamp-down on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims has been criticised by some governments and rights groups.

Chinese authorities told major media outlets not to cover the film's release in the wake of the uproar, four people familiar with matter told Reuters

Total worldwide box office receipts for Mulan reached US$37.6 million through Sunday for the seven territories where the film is playing.

Disney is trying to turn a profit on Mulan through an unusual release strategy because the pandemic has left many theatres shuttered.

The company made Mulan available for online viewing in the United States and other countries where the Disney+ streaming service is available.

In China and other countries where Disney+ does not operate, Disney is releasing Mulan in cinemas. Disney has not provided sales figures from streaming.