It turns out John Cena’s apology to the Chinese Communist government for referring to Taiwan as a “country” may have been for naught.
According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), the latest installment in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, “F9,” dropped 85% in the Chinese box office during its second weekend following a strong opening of $136 million one week prior.
“After two laps, the Vin Diesel/John Cena action flick has totaled $185.3 million. That’s slightly ahead of where franchise spinoff Hobbs & Shaw was sitting at a similar point in its China run, but far weaker than the preceding franchise mainstays Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious, which topped out at $390.9 million in 2015 and $392.8 million in 2017, respectively,” reported THR.
“Chinese ticketing app Maoyan currently projects F9 to finish at $211.9 million — certainly not a number to slouch at but far inferior to the franchise’s recent heights, especially since China’s theatrical market is back to full earning capacity,” according to the report.
Last week, one of the film’s chief stars, John Cena, ignited a firestorm across the internet, angering both the left and the right when he issued a groveling apology to China, in Mandarin, for having referred to Taiwan as an independent country — a statement of objective fact — in a previous interview.
“Hi China, I’m John Cena. I’m in the middle of Fast and Furious 9 promotions. I’m doing a lot of interviews. I made a mistake in one of my interviews. Everyone was asking me if I could use Chinese – [movie] staff gave me a lot of information, so there was a lot of interviews and information,” he said in a video posted to the Chinese social network Weibo. “I made one mistake. I have to say something very, very, very important now. I love and respect China and Chinese people. I’m very, very sorry about my mistake. I apologize, I apologize, I’m very sorry. You must understand that I really love, really respect China and the Chinese people. My apologies. See you.”
Practically no one, not even men as far-left as Keith Olbermann and Stephen Colbert, defended Cena’s apology; the wrestler-turned-actor was universally mocked all over social media.
Whether or not John Cena’s “gaffe” had anything to do with the film’s sudden box office drop has yet to be determined. As THR noted, the Chinese box office fluctuates rather quickly if negative word-of-mouth spreads. Though the “Fast & Furious” franchise has been a favorite of the Chinese people for several years, “F9” has been “hit by withering reviews from the start.”
“Its social scores on Maoyan are 7.5 and 5.5 on Douban — lower than most major titles released this year,” noted THR. ” Still, earlier in its run the film was forecasted to earn significantly more, and Cena’s public relations debacle certainly hasn’t helped.”