Netflix just surprise-dropped a $700 million Chinese blockbuster, The Wandering Earth, on its platform but not many people have noticed.
The sci-fi movie about humanity’s attempts to save the Earth from the destructive powers of the sun, directed by Frant Gwo, released earlier this year in Chinese theaters to much fanfare. Within weeks, it established itself as a massive blockbuster, becoming the second-most successful Chinese film of all time. The success was so unprecedented that the Netflix hierarchy immediately decided to lap it up for its streaming platform.
However, as reported by IndieWire, despite the movie’s phenomenal success in Asian markets, Netflix doesn’t seem to have done much to promote the film. Although Netflix Asia dropped a trailer for The Wandering Earth on April 29, one day before uploading the movie, the streaming platform made no mention of the movie on its official U.S. Youtube page or in the press releases where it usually shares the upcoming titles for each month.
While such a hushed move would make sense if the film was an independent, small-time title, it makes little sense for the streaming giant not to promote a movie which is the third-largest blockbuster of this year, just behind Marvel Studios and Disney’s Endgame and Captain Marvel; one of the biggest sci-fi movies of all time; and the second highest-grossing non-English film of all time.
Critics have argued that considering the universal appeal of the film’s subject, its production prowess being on par with big-time Hollywood movies, and its overwhelming success, Netflix should have done a little more than surprise-dropping The Wandering Earth for western audiences. Its desire not to promote the movie becomes all the more confusing when one considers that Gwo’s feature is exactly the kind of movie one would expect to become a global behemoth.
What Western media got wrong about China's blockbuster 'The Wandering Earth.' https://t.co/vJPUVMnc7A— VICE (@VICE) May 8, 2019
It remains to be seen whether a movie which did so well domestically in China causes the same excitement in the West, but Netflix’s approach would definitely not help its chances. One would think if Netflix is more attuned to the idea of presenting only western-made content for its western audiences with fanfare and a lot of promotion, it would eventually be detrimental to the platform’s long-term success strategy of creating global content. In any case, there is little doubt that The Wandering Earth has wide appeal, and even if Netflix didn’t promote the film for you to have heard about it, you could watch it for yourself now and decide if it’s worth all the hullabaloo.