Records continue to fall as China's red hot box office grossed $1.54 billion in the first quarter of 2015, a 41% increase over the same period in 2014 and the best start to a year in Chinese box office history. Seventy films were released from January to March and twenty three passed the 100 million RMB mark ($16.13M). Also of significance, imported films only accounted for 34% of the total box office for the quarter which is the lowest percentage in years. However looking ahead to the rest of the year, that proportion should change because Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, a particularly popular period for domestic draws, occurred in the first quarter, and also because Hollywood is just about to enter its blockbuster season.
Top 10 Q1 Chinese Films
1. The Man From Macau 2 / $156.94M
2. Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies / $123.55M
3. Dragon Blade / $119.8M
4. Wolf Totem / $112.19M
5. Big Hero 6 / $84.80M
6. Running Man / $69.99M
7. The Taking of Tiger Mountain / $68.91M
8. Cinderella / $68.18M
9. Zhongkui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal / $65.87M
10. Miss Granny / $58.95M
Things heat up for the three-day Tomb Sweeping Holiday as the romantic Let’s Get Married (咱们结婚吧) and the adrenaline fueled Wolf Warriors (战狼）square off in a box office showdown. Both films match up well in awareness and intent to purchase according to EntGroup’s EFMT Marketing Index.
Strongly marketed towards the Post-’80/Post-’90 female demographic, Let’s Get Married stars Gao Yuanyuan (高圆圆) and Jiang Wu (姜武) in the lead up to their wedding day. Gao was featured in the massively popular 2013 television show of the same name, but Jiang has replaced lead actor Huang Haibo (黄海波) after a prostitution scandal. The TV show has been watched nearly 4.3 billion times according to EntGroup’s Online Viewership Tracker so the franchise has a solid fan base already. However, returning director Liu Jiang (刘江) promises a standalone story so both diehard fans of the tv show and new viewers alike can enjoy the film.
Prowling into theaters on the same day, Wolf Warriors is an action film geared towards the corresponding male demographic. In his second directorial effort, martial artist Jacky Wu (吴京) also stars as a disgraced army commando expelled from his squadron who is then admitted into a mysterious special force known as the “Wolf Warriors”. British martial artist Scott Adkins from The Expendables 2 also makes an appearance and should bring in Chinese fanboys obsessed with that American action series.
Other films coming out this holiday weekend include Insanity, a psychological thriller which is garnering buzz for Sean Lau’s acting, Midnight Garage, a horror film based on a Hong Kong urban legend about a haunted parking garage, and Outcast starring Nicolas Cage which was held over from October.
Aside from Let’s Get Married and Wolf Warriors duking it out for the top spot, look for a strong hold from this weekend’s #1, Kingsman, and perhaps another good showing for Cinderella going into its fourth week of release.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (王牌特工: 特工学院) dominated China's box office this weekend as predicted, grabbing $24.29M including Thursday midnight screenings. The opening is on par with Cinderella's (灰姑娘) from 2 weekends ago. The Disney fantasy dropped to third place last weekend thanks to a strong debut from domestic pic Lost and Love (失孤), but jumped back into the second spot this weekend. Cinderella has now mopped up $66.47M in 17 days of release in China. See below for the rest of the Top Ten with numbers from ChinaBoxOffice.
Kingsman: The Secret Service won Friday's box office handily, grossing $5.58m behind a strong publicity push that brought Colin Firth to Beijing to meet his fans. The action film appeared on 30% of China's screens and took in nearly 50% of Friday's total ticket sales. Following in a distant second, Andy Lau's Lost and Love scored $1.46m to total $28.1m in 8 days of release. Cinderella continued its third week in magical form taking bronze and beating out Tak3n. The Magic Kingdom's fantasy has now made $58.5m in the Middle Kingdom.
In late 2012 and early 2013, a lowish budget buddy road trip movie directed by and starring Xu Zheng (徐峥) took the Chinese box office by storm. Lost in Thailand (泰囧) ended up grossing over $200m and is still the highest grossing Chinese domestic film in box office history. Yesterday, a teaser for the long-awaited sequel was released on the Chinese internet. The teaser can be found below with English subtitles.
Several questions fans had been eagerly anticipating the answers to were revealed in the teaser including the film's location, Hong Kong, and the leading actress, Zhao Wei (赵薇). Zhao is sure to add to the box office draw as she is widely seen as one of the mainland's most bankable actresses (四大花旦). Her Painted Skin 2: The Resurrection (画皮II) from 2012 is #21 on the all-time highest grossing films list ($115m), and the following year saw Zhao's directorial debut, So Young (致我们终将逝去的青春) take the #18 spot with $115.8m.
Lost in Hong Kong (港囧) hasn't been given a release date yet, but expect it to show up on middle kingdom screens during the National Holiday week of October 2015 or Chinese New Year 2016. The original also had a short domestic run here in the US pulling in $57k and averaging $1,111 per theater in its opening weekend. Look for a larger opening for Hong Kong both here and in China given the huge success of the first film.