'Transformers' sets $59 mil record

'Fallen' sinks 'Titanic' after 11-year boxoffice reign

HONG KONG -- The "Transformers" sequel has become China's biggest boxoffice hit ever by earning 400 million Chinese yuan ($59 million), a publicist for one of the country's two film importers said.

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" surpassed the 11-year-old record of 360 million yuan set by "Titanic," spokesman Weng Li at the state-run China Film Group said. "Titanic" made about $43 million based on exchange rates in 1998, the year it was released.

Weng said the "Transformers" sequel, released June 24, received a wide release on several thousand screens. China had about 4,100 screens by the end of 2008. The first "Transformers" installment raked in 280 million yuan in 2007.

"This is a tremendous achievement for the market in China and clearly shows that there is a strong growing demand for international films," said Mike Ellis, Asia-Pacific managing director of the Hollywood trade organization, Motion Picture Association of America.

The group wants China to relax its movie import quota of allowing in just 20 foreign blockbusters a year, aimed at boosting its domestic industry.

Weng said both installments of John Woo's two-part Chinese historical epic "Red Cliff" earned 300 million yuan ($44 million) this year and last, as did Chinese director Feng Xiaogang's 2008 romantic comedy "If You Are the One."

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," a science fiction movie, was apparently slightly censored. In the film's opening sequence, the Autobots and Decepticons battle in an industrial part of Shanghai, but when a U.S. military commander refers to the city, the word "Shanghai" is muffled.

Chinese censors are sensitive to portrayals of their country in foreign movies.

The "Transformers" record also highlights the earning potential of Hollywood films in China. But with piracy a lingering problem and moviegoing largely the habit of wealthier urbanites, the growing Chinese box office revenues remain small compared to the U.S.

The "Transformers" sequel earned $62 million on its opening day in the U.S. alone. The $200 million production has grossed $348 million in the U.S. and $380 million outside the country, according to the box office tracking Web site Box Office Mojo.

Chinese boxoffice revenues totaled 4.3 billion yuan ($630 million) in 2008, compared to $9.8 billion in the U.S. in the same year.
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