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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug racked up $33.04 million in its first three days in China, capping a huge February for the world’s second biggest film market, with box office passing 3 billion yuan ($490 million) for the first time ever in a single month.
The three-billion-yuan threshold was breached on Tuesday (Feb. 25), overtaking the previous record for Mainland China’s single-month box-office revenue of 2.56 billion yuan ($420 million), set in December 2012.
PHOTOS: China Box Office 2013: The Top 10 Movies
The projections for the full month are for box office revenues of 3.2 billion yuan ($520 million), which means that the total gross for a single month in China is now almost as high as in the full year in 2007. Box office revenues were higher in February than in all of 2006.
According to data from the research group Entgroup, there were 4.85 million admissions in the week of Feb. 17-23 to see the exploits of Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey in nearly 95,000 screenings. The $33.04 million haul marks the biggest three-day opening of all time for a Warner Bros. title in China.
Average ticket prices for the The Desolation of Smaug were $6.80, which shows the impact of 3D and Imax screenings. The movie did $4.4 million in Imax screenings, a new record for the biggest Imax opening ever for a Hollywood title in China, surpassing the $4.3 million debut of Gravity.
Driving the strong performance was the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday in February. Wildfire growth in the number of cinemas in second- and third-tier cities in China means that when people return home for the holiday to visit their parents, they are increasingly going to the movies as a form of recreation.
PHOTOS: ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ Premiere Draws Peter Jackson, Orlando Bloom
Also, Valentine’s Day has become a big cinema-going event, and many of the biggest performing movies during February were romantic comedies aimed at lovers and dateless singletons in the world’s most populous nation.
In second place during the week was the domestically produced romantic comedy Beijing Love Story, which grossed $20.52 million for a cume of $54.06 million.
The third biggest movie in the week was Wong Jing‘s The Man From Macau, featuring Hong Kong legend Chow Yun-fat, which took $10.98 million for a cume of $79.14 million over 24 days.
Wong confirmed to local media that there would be a sequel, probably in 3D, around Chinese New Year 2015, and he was confident that Chow would reprise his role as the “God of Gamblers.”
There was residual strength in Hong Kong director Poi Soi Cheang‘s record-breaking 3D fantasy epic The Monkey King, which took another $8.73 million over the week for a cume of $167.19 million after 24 days.
Frozen took $8.68 million for a total of $40.52 million after 19 days.
Ex-Files, directed by Tian Yusheng, was in sixth place, taking $2.76 million to bring its total to $18.28 million, while the reality TV adaptation Where Are We Going, Dad? added another $2.57 million to bring its cume to $112.37 million.
The romantic comedy Unexpected Love took $700,000 for a total of $3.3 million. Bends, starring Carina Lau and Chen Kun, with cinematography by Christopher Doyle, took another $460,000 to bring its total to $2.24 million, while Shining Soul took $350,000 in its opening three days.
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