Chinese fantasy sequel Monster Hunt 2 is the new king of Chinese New Year.
According to data from Chinese box-office tracker EntGroup, the live-action/CGI fusion film opened to an enormous $85 million in mainland China on Friday, the first day of the weeklong traditional family holiday, which has become one of the world's biggest box-office seasons.
The debut crushed the prior record held by The Fate of the Furious ($69 million) for the largest single-day performance in Chinese box-office history.
The film's director, Raman Hui, spent 20 years at DreamWorks Animation, where he co-directed Shrek The Third. Hui returned to China in 2014 to direct the first Monster Hunt movie for Beijing-based Edko Entertainment. It earned a then-record $385 million upon its release in 2015 — a total the sequel now looks well positioned to surpass.
The film is set to open in North America on Friday courtesy of Lionsgate. Monster Hunt 2 will bow stateside at 69 locations, with plans to expand to more screens over the coming weeks.
If Monster Hunt 2 had had a little less competition during its China debut, it may have overtaken Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($119 million) for the biggest single-day gross ever worldwide. But Chinese New Year is always a bonanza, with distributors stacking the blockbusters head-to-head as Chinese families from rural regions to major megalopolises pour into cinemas en masse.
The holiday's second-place finisher was Wanda Pictures' action comedy Detective Chinatown 2, which closed out opening day with a whopping $59.3 million. Again written and directed by Chen Sicheng, the sequel stars returning leads Wang Baoqiang and Liu Haoran, but this time the comedy hijinks have been transplanted from Asia to New York City's Chinatown.
Chinese New Year wouldn't be complete without a Monkey King movie or two, and director Cheang Pou-soi is back with his third installment in the well worn genre. The film raked in an impressive $28 million on opening day. Aaron Kwok is back as the eponymous simian hero of the beloved Chinese literary classic.
Hong Kong director Dante Lam's military action flick Operation Red Sea opened in fourth place with $20.7 million. The solid word of mouth that's trailing the film suggests that the Chinese audience has plenty of appetite left for patriotic fare following Wu Jing's pseudo-propagandistic smash-hit Wolf Warrior 2 from 2017.