‘Death on the Nile’ fails to launch at the Chinese box office

Credit: 20th Century Studios

Death on the Nile must be cursed. Kenneth Branagh’s sequel to unexpected hit Murder on the Orient Express has faced a barrage of negative headlines, including star Armie Hammer’s cannibalism and misconduct allegations, Gal Gadot’s past resulting in the film being banned in several Middle Eastern countries, and a two-year release delay due to COVID-19. After all that, the entire operation looks to be ending in nothing but box office disappointment.

Since scoring a fairly weak domestic opening last weekend, the whodunnit’s losing streak has continued in China, where hopes were originally high that audiences would overlook all the bad vibes and check out the first Hollywood studio release in over a month.

That didn’t happen. Instead, Death on the Nile opened on February 19 and crawled to a fourth-place finish with a paltry $5.9 million, ending up behind three Chinese movies that have been out for weeks: Battle of Lake Changjin 2, Too Cool to Kill, and Nice View.

This will be especially bad news for 20th Century Studios, as Murder on the Orient Express exceeded expectations at the Chinese box office in 2017 with a $35m haul (it made over $350m globally).

Death on the Nile ended up being beaten out by Uncharted at the box office on home soil, and has so far made $76m against its $90m budget. That indicates that while it probably won’t end up as a flop, it’s not going to come close to Murder on the Orient Express, either.

Theories abound as to why, though as these Agatha Christie adaptations are aimed at an older audience than standard blockbuster fare, it’s possible that they’re still wary of crowded public spaces due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19. But, let’s face it, the whole cannibalism thing can’t help.