China's EntGroup reports that Fast & Furious 7 (速度与激情7) raced to $62.69 million on its opening Sunday, smashing the single day record of $35.88 million previously held by Transformers: Age of Extinction (变形金刚4). The latest installment in the action series also scored $8 million in midnight screenings from Saturday night, more than double Transformer 4's $3.38 million.
Despite a Sunday opening, Furious 7 accounted for 64% of China's total box office take this weekend and 90% of Sunday's total thanks to a wide release that saw the film playing on nearly 2 out of every 3 movie screens in the Middle Kingdom.
In second place, Jacky Wu's Wolf Warriors (战狼) dropped 54% to grab $15.59 million, raising its cume to $69.53 million after 11 days of release. The majority of Warriors total came on Friday and Saturday ($12.83 million) before Furious 7 appeared on screens.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (王牌特工：特工学院) climbed up a spot to third place this weekend with $7.83 million, 53% off last week. Colin Firth's action flick has now grossed $74.93 million after its third weekend which makes it the third highest-grossing imported film of 2015 behind The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies ($123.1 million) and Big Hero 6 ($84.55 million).
The rest of the top ten for this weekend is below.
SUNDAY UPDATE #2: Universal reports Furious 7 grossed an estimated $68.6 million on opening day, the highest box office, widest release and biggest attendance ever in one day in China.
SUNDAY UPDATE #1: EntGroup now reports Furious 7 took in $8.04 million from Sunday midnight screenings.
Early estimates show Furious 7 smashed the box office record for midnight screenings in China early Sunday morning. The film sped to $7.4 million, more than double the previous record of $3.38 million set by Transformers: Age of Extinction which also went on to become the highest grossing film in China's box office history. Stay tuned to BoxOffice.com for weekend actuals and a full global report tomorrow morning.
According to its first annual report after going public in January, Wanda Cinema Line had operating revenues of $860 million, a 32.7% increase over 2013. Box office revenue accounted for $660 million, while net profits were $129 million, both 33% percent year-to-year growth.
Wanda's cinemas were visited by 102 million moviegoers in 2014 and it's the first movie chain in China to break the 100 million mark. Wanda's market share is now 14.2% and is China's top cinema in terms of revenue, number of visits, and market share for the 6th consecutive year.
The report attributes the company's revenue growth in 2014 to cinema expansion. Forty new movie theaters were built in 2014, adding 369 screens and bringing Wanda Cinema's total to 182 cinemas with 1,616 screens across China.
In addition, Wanda Cinema Line saw a 200% increase in online ticket sales in 2014, accounting for $193 million in its sales revenue. The company now has the world's largest cinema member club with over 26 million members.
Wanda's surge over the past year can be attributed to China's stellar box office growth in 2014, up 36% to $4.8 billion. China's burgeoning middle class in urban areas are seeking out more entertainment and leisure activities and now have the disposable income to buy movie tickets. "Chinese people are developing a habit of watching movies in cinemas, propelling the fast development of theater chains," said Wanda's financial report.
At present, Wanda Cinema Group is clearly the market leader but rivals China Film Stellar (中影星美), Guangdong Dadi Cinema (广东大地) and Shanghai United (上海联合) are quickly becoming heavy contenders. Last week, China Film Stellar and Guangdong Dadi each had 1.73 million visits to their theaters, and Shanghai United had 1.4 million compared to Wanda's 2.4 million visits. Wanda's rivals have yet to release their 2014 financial reports.
Last week the Academy for International Communication of Chinese Culture (AICCC) released the results of its 2014 survey on the impact of Chinese films on global audiences. Based on 1,592 valid questionnaires from 66 countries across 5 continents, 53% people had only seen one Chinese film in the past year and 26% hadn't seen any. It is clear that China has been unable to gain an international foothold despite massive investment and a state-sponsored "soft power" push.
Cultural curiosity drove those viewers who did watch Chinese films, and kung fu films or films based on Chinese myth and legend continue to pique the interest of most foreign audiences. However, those seeking Chinese cinema rarely go to the movie theater and instead find material through free channels, such as television or online streaming.
China's box office currently sits at #2 globally behind Hollywood -- reaching almost $5 billion in 2014 -- and is growing at an incredible rate every year. Every new record or milestone is reported on with fanfare across media outlets as China tries to contend with Hollywood's global dominance. However, the rapid development of China's domestic box office isn't translating to success on the international scene. Inexpensive movies catering to the middle class Post-80s/Post 90s demographic nostalgic for their "lost youth" have led the Chinese box office in past years along with films about contemporary city life, but commentators have criticized these films for being "vapid" and "materialistic". Accordingly, some are calling on industry insiders to stop pursuing fleeting economic benefits by pandering to domestic audiences and adopt a clear global strategy.
AICCC's deputy director Luo Jun sees television and online streaming as one way for Chinese productions to reach global audiences: "We've noticed that more and more Chinese elements have been shown in American drama, whether it's a character or a storyline or a place, like Marco Polo. For me it's a westernized narrative of Chinese culture. It's like Chinese food in America, it's not just Chinese food, it's their interpretation and imagination about Chinese culture."
It remains to be seen what the secrets to a globalized and popular Chinese cinema are, and even if they can even be "strategized" or "manufactured", but AICCC's survey clearly shows that global audiences aren't connecting with what domestic Chinese audiences find popular.
The Wrap reported this morning that three Chinese companies -- China Movie Channel, Jiaflix and 1905 Films -- will partner with Electronic Arts, to finance a sequel to Need For Speed (极品飞车). The original film based on EA's hit video game and starring Aaron Paul, Michael Keaton, and Dominic Cooper, grossed $200 million globally with $65 million coming from China alone. The sequel's cast and crew have yet to be announced, but suffice to say it will be targeted more towards Chinese audiences than the original with Chinese set pieces, talent, and product tie-ins.
China Movie Channel, Jiaflix, and 1905 Films last teamed up with Paramount Pictures for 2014's release of Transformers: The Age of Extinction (变形金刚4：绝迹重生), which became the highest grossing film in Chinese box office history.