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What a difference a year makes. After a 12-month postponement caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Wanda Pictures’ much anticipated comedy tentpole Detective Chinatown 3 finally opened in China Friday for the first day of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday. The film debuted with a record-setting haul of $160 million and finished the weekend with an astonishing $397.2 million three-day total, according to Artisan Gateway.
If there was any doubt, China’s theatrical box office is back to booming. But DC3’s huge start not only proved the health of China’s film market for the most popular local titles, it also established the country as the world’s single-most powerful potential theatrical territory. The movie smashed Avengers: Endgame‘s record for the biggest opening in a single market, eclipsing the Marvel tentpole’s North American launch of $357 million in April 2019.
Maoyan currently projects Detective Chinatown 3 to conclude its run at $750 million (RMB 4.84 billion), which would make it China’s second-biggest blockbuster ever, behind all-time champion Wolf Warrior 2 (2017) at $874 million (RMB 5.68 billion).
DC3 was shot in its entirety on Imax cameras and it did predictably big business on the giant screen, notching an Imax weekend total of $23.5 million (RMB 152 million), the biggest opening weekend ever for a Chinese film in the format, surpassing sci-fi spectacle The Wandering Earth. Overall, the first three days of the 2020 Lunar New Year gave Imax is best weekend ever in China, with total earnings at $25 million (RMB 162 million), which is up 45 percent from the 2019 holiday.
“We suspected our fans would turn out for Chinese New Year in a big way, but these early returns have blown away even our most optimistic projections,” said Imax CEO Rich Gelfond in a statement.
Like the first two films in the Detective Chinatown series, the new installment is written and directed by Chen Sicheng. It reunites franchise favorites Wang Baoqiang and Liu Haoran as a pair of bumbling detectives caught up in a crime-fighting caper overseas. The original Detective Chinatown, set in Bangkok, Thailand, earned $126 million in 2016. The sequel relocated the action to New York City and built considerably on its predecessor, pulling in $563 million during Chinese New Year in 2018. The latest installment is set in Tokyo and features Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano (Silence, Thor: Ragnarok) and Thai action star Tony Jaa.
Opening-day projections initially suggested that Detective Chinatown 3 might eventually topple Wolf Warrior 2, but that outcome began to look increasingly unlikely as word of mouth for the comedy turned tepid and the second-place release, time travel rom-com Hi, Mom, began making gains.
By Sunday, Detective Chinatown 3 had an average audience rating of 8.8 on Maoyan and just 5.5 from movie buff site Douban, while Hi, Mom scored 9.5 and 8.3, respectively. Hi, Mom‘s share of daily earnings also grew from just 17.2 percent on Friday to 31 percent on Sunday, while DC3‘s slipped from 60 percent to 50 percent.
Total sales for Hi, Mom, which is distributed by Lian Ray Pictures, finished the weekend at a strong $161.7 million.
Huace Pictures’ fantasy action film A Writer’s Odyssey scored third with $48.3 million (RMB 312 million), followed by family animation Boonie Bears: The Wild Life with $38.5 million (RMB 211 million). Huayi Brothers video game adaptation The Ying Yang Master, just acquired by Netflix, came next in line at $24.9 million (RMB 160.9 million), with Light Chaser Animation’s higher-end 3D animated feature New Gods: Nezha Reborn not far behind with $21.2 (RMB 132 million). Comedy drama Endgame, starring Andy Lau, was weakest of the new releases with $12.1 million (RMB 77.7 million).
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