‘Moonfall’ aiming to avoid further embarrassment with Chinese release

MOONFALL, Halle Berry, 2022. ph: Reiner Bajo / © Lionsgate / Courtesy Everett Collection

Can Moonfall make ‘one giant leap’ towards box office success?

That’s the hope, after the most recent Roland Emmerich film, which was heavily financed by Chinese studio Huayi Brothers Media, performed weakly at the U.S. box office.

Debuting in North America on Feb. 4, the astral adventure has since been given the go-ahead for a March 25 release in China, where it will need an incredible opening to escape major financial losses.

The project was a hot commodity during Cannes Marche du Film back in 2019, where the title, plus Emmerich’s track record as an action-adventure maestro, made it a pre-sales sensation. Dubbed the “master of disaster,” Emmerich is renowned for his potent brand of cinematic sci-fi, seen in films such as 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day and Independence Day: Resurgence.

Emmerich wrote the Moonfall script, along with screenwriters Spenser Cohen (Extinction) and Harald Kloser (White House Down). 

Dennis Wang and co-founder James Wang from Huayi Brothers signed on as executive producers and mainland Chinese distributor, along with Roland’s sister, casting director and producer Ute Emmerich, back in 2020. According to ScreenDaily.com, James Wang said in a statement at that time:

“Roland Emmerich is a cinematic master, and his films – 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and Independence Day – are so deeply loved by Chinese audiences that Huayi Brothers is proud to partner with his latest science fiction saga, Moonfall, in both its production and distribution. 

We believe that the most effective way to facilitate worldwide cultural exchange is in collaboration with top artists, and this project marks a milestone for us as a solid content creator in the international film business. Moonfall reinforces Huayi’s strategy of integrating global resources and exploring innovative ways to promote Chinese culture internationally.”

However, the movie, which cost an estimated $146 million to make, has earned just $18.9 million in North America, and $39.4 million worldwide. Huayi Bros. has a limited time to mount a local marketing campaign in hopes of successfully completing the deal.

Emmerich’s previous film, Midway, also performed poorly in China, grossing just $42 million from a mid-November release, but relaxed COVID-19 constraints, and the overall popularity of the genre, could turn things around for Moonfall.

Moonfall centers on a NASA executive and former astronaut, played by Halle Berry, who must team with an astronaut from her past (Patrick Wilson) and a conspiracy theorist (John Bradley) for an impossible mission to save the planet after a mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit, and sends it on a collision course with Earth.

The film also stars Michael Peña, Charlie Plummer, Kelly Yu, Eme Ikwuakor, Carolina Bartczak, and Donald Sutherland.