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China Box Office: Feng Xiaogang's 'Personal Tailor' Shrugs Off Critics With Record Opening

Feng Xiaogang
Courtesy of CineAsia
Feng Xiaogang

The comedy triumphs, taking in $13 million during its first day.

Personal Tailor, the latest movie by one of China's most popular directors, Feng Xiaogang, has shaken off negative online buzz and the skepticism of market investors to rack up one of the best openings ever in the country.

In its opening day on Dec. 19, the movie took in around $13.20 million (80 million yuan), with 47,200 screenings and 2.312 million admissions on the first day. Its cume over the first two days was $15 million (152 million yuan), with the movie screening on 57 percent of all screens in China.

This makes it the fastest a 2D movie has reached 100 million yuan in China, breaking the record set by Journey to the West last year.

Penned by novelist and longtime Feng collaborator Wang Shuo, the movie is a return to comedy for Feng -- it's the genre in which he earned his popularity with movies like Big Shot's Funeral and Cellphone.

Q&A: Feng Xiaogang Says Censors Are Holding Back Industry 

Personal Tailor tells of a group of actors who run a company helping people to live out their fantasies, and it is a sequel of sorts to Feng's 1997 hit The Dream Factory, which was also written by Wang.

The success of the movie was particularly surprising, as a number of fund managers had dumped stock in the movie's producers, Huayi Brothers, last week after a special advance screening of the movie. Shares in Huayi lost $490 million in value on Wednesday, Dec. 18 after the funds ditched their shares, saying it was "overpriced."

Feng said the skeptical fund managers had "generated curiosity" among Chinese audiences and that had lured them into the cinema. "Criticism and compliments have both helped make the film a hot-rod topic," Feng told local media.

The movie contains scenes of satire that have struck home with Chinese audiences, including scenes looking at corruption among government officials and another storyline poking fun at a popular director who wants to be a critical success.

Feng himself switched from comedy to more serious subjects, with mixed results -- his war movie Assembly and earthquake epic Aftershock were both successes with local audiences, but last year's Back to 1942, which dealt with a devastating famine and featured Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins, failed to make waves with Chinese audiences.

Online critics found the movie cliched, with some saying it was Feng's worst movie ever. But Feng himself was philosophical.

"Thanks those who criticize, mock or praise the film. It adds controversy to the movie. I welcome everyone's praise as well as mockery," he told local media.

He said that satire was still in its infancy in China, and described efforts to poke fun as still being "baby steps" and "new territory."