It’s been nearly three years since Monster Hunt broke 200 box office records and made 2.42 billion CNY during its 59 days in theaters. It quickly became the largest-grossing film in Chinese history at the time of its release.
On Chinese New Year Day (tomorrow), the film’s protagonist (a cute baby monster name Huba) will return in Monster Hunt 2, whose premiere has been heralded by countless sponsors and partners. One of the more prominent promotional partners is McDonald’s, who added a series of Monster Hunt 2-themed items to their China menus on January 24. The last month has also seen a string of Monster Hunt 2–themed McDonald’s locations opening in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
An even more surprising promotional partner of the film is CCTV, China’s official state television network. The 30 seconds just before the beginning of the station’s annual televised Spring Festival Gala is always the most expensive commercial time slot — it was auctioned off for 71.99 million RMB (over $11 million USD) to LeEco in 2016, and for 44.57 million RMB to Xiaomi in 2017.
Monster Hunt 2 secured this year’s coveted spot, and extended it to 60 seconds, which might have cost over 100 million RMB (over $15 million USD) according to industry professionals. Additionally, the film’s production team will show up in the New Year count-down segment of the Gala, showing an unprecedented level of cooperation between CCTV and a commercial film.
One reason CCTV might want to promote Monster Hunt 2 is that Huba, the film’s main character, has become one of the most successful examples of intellectual property to come out of China’s entertainment industry.
Producer William Kong (江志强, who has co-produced classic Chinese films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and House of Flying Daggers) and director Raman Hui (许诚毅, best known for Shrek the Third) made a dream team for this family-reunion-themed animated sequel, which features a cast studded with Chinese box office favorites Tony Leung, Bai Baihe, Jing Boran and Chris Lee.
The film’s producers are presumably betting that Spring Festival, a holiday that sees hundreds of millions of Chinese people travelling half the country to be back in their hometowns with their families, will be the perfect time to release a film like Monster Hunt 2. Early reports indicate that they’re right on the money: pre-sales have already broken 160 million, and presumably will get another bump after tonight’s expensive CCTV spot is aired.
Cover image: Baidu Baike