The top four spots at this week’s Chinese box office were captured by four new local-language films, all released to coincide with China’s three-day Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节), a public holiday that often welcomes a considerable bump in moviegoing attendance.
Ticket sales for the week beginning Monday, September 12 and ending Sunday, September 18 totaled RMB 773 million (US$110 million), a nearly two-fold increase over the previous week’s frigid output. Box office gross across the three-day holiday — celebrated from Thursday to Saturday — hit RMB 510 million ($76 million) and accounted for 70 percent of the entire week’s moviegoing business.
Despite the significant jump, however, this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival paled in comparison to 2015 when the holiday lasted just two days, but reaped RMB 610 million ($91 million) in ticket sales thanks to the performance of blockbuster sequel Lost in Hong Kong (港囧). China’s depressed film market in 2016 continues.
In first place for the week, fantasy sequel A Chinese Odyssey Part 3 (大话西游3) opened to early previews on Tuesday evening and easily led all new releases with RMB 250 million ($37.5 million) through 5 days of release; for comparison, last year’s Lost in Hong Kong clocked $31.1 million…on its opening day.
Helmed by Hong Kong director Jeffrey Lau, A Chinese Odyssey Part 3 was skewered online for rehashing the same story; in Chinese, commentators dubbed the sequel “炒冷饭” (chǎo lěng fàn), literally “stir-fried leftover rice.”
Lau had directed the first two installments —A Chinese Odyssey from 1995 starring Stephen Chow and the Wong Kar-wai-produced sequel in 2002 — and both are considered classic Hong Kong comedies. Lau’s goodwill with Chinese audiences has faded since with a string of commercial and critical failures including A Chinese Tall Story (情癫大圣), Just Another Pandora’s Box (越光宝盒), and Just Another Margin (大话天仙). Still, the strength of A Chinese Odyssey’s IP seems to have prevailed and Chinese moviegoers will most likely be stuck with further sequels.
Another sequel, Z Storm II (反贪风暴2), grabbed second with a five-day RMB 171 million total ($17.8 million). Although the crime thriller’s performance couldn’t match fellow genre breakouts Cold War 2 and Line Walker, its box office success continues the resurgence of Hong Kong-produced crime thrillers in the rest of China.
Third and fourth place went to the best reviewed films of the week — Cock and Bull (追凶者也), director Cao Baoping’s (曹保平) follow up to his successful crime thriller The Dead End (烈日灼心), and Soulmate (七月与安生), a rare well-received entry into China’s oft-maligned “youthfulness” (青春片) genre. Cock and Bull earned RMB 78.5 million ($11.8 million) andSoulmate found RMB 72.3 million ($10.8 million).
French action film Bastille Day and Warner Animation Group’s Storks release next on a quiet weekend before another onslaught of local films for National Day, October 1.