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Holdover romantic drama A Little Red Flower topped a quiet weekend at China’s box office, earning $11.7 million for a local total of $182.8 million.
Fellow holdover Shock Wave 2, a crime thriller starring Andy Lau, scored second, adding $7.8 million for a four-weekend haul of $163.2 million, according to data from Artisan Gateway.
It was a downbeat period of moviegoing for China, with total revenue reaching just $47.1 million, but the contrast to the ailing theatrical markets of North America and Europe still could scarcely be starker. The biggest film in the U.S. over the four-day Martin Luther King Day weekend was Liam Neeson’s latest action thriller The Marksman with a measly $3.7 million.
A Little Red Flower, a romance about two young people battling cancer, has captured the hearts of Chinese filmgoers, generating a wave of emotional word of mouth while becoming the world’s biggest film of 2021 so far. The movie also has weathered some controversy, though. Some filmgoers have pointed out the many similarities between the Chinese film and the 2014 Hollywood blockbuster The Fault in Our Stars. It was later revealed that A Little Red Flower actually grew out of 20th Century Fox’s direct efforts to make a local-language remake of The Fault in Our Stars, although the studio eventually pulled back from a co-financing deal and isn’t credited on the Chinese film. A Little Red Flower stars pop star turned actor Jackson Yee and rising actress Liu Haocun. It’s directed by 37-year-old filmmaker Han Yan (whom Fox once engaged as a potential producer of its remake), and produced by HG Entertainment and Lian Ray Pictures.
Several Chinese new releases got off to a soft start over the weekend. Crime thriller The Soul, adapted from a mystery novel by Jiang Bo, earned $9.6 million including previews. Directed by Cheng Wei-hao, the film tells the story of a husband and wife who investigate the mysterious death of a wealthy businessman. Maoyan projects the film to finish its run at under $20 million.
Expectations were especially high for the big-budget Chinese animation Wish Dragon, starring a voice performance by Jackie Chan and produced by Beijing-based Base Animation and Sparkle Roll Media. The film had a lot of industry goodwill behind it and was met with mostly positive social scores — 9.1 on Maoyan and 6.8 from Douban. But it opened to just $7.1 million and is projected to top out at $13.7 million.
Further down the charts, Disney/Pixar’s Soul added $4 million in its fourth weekend. After making a muted start, the movie has ridden rave word of mouth to a cumulative total of $42.9 million, which makes it the third-biggest Pixar film ever in China. Chinese industry watchers have commented on the exceedingly limited marketing campaign that Disney unfurled in advance of Soul‘s release in the country. The film’s sizable performance is nothing to scoff at, but had Disney committed more marketing dollars to the release, Soul might have become Hollywood’s first bone fide theatrical blockbuster of 2021, several insiders have suggested to THR.
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