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Chinese family film Looking Up, co-directed by and starring Deng Chao, delivered on its early buzz to swiftly unseat Disney’s The Lion King from its perch atop China’s box office.
After several days of escalating nationwide previews, Looking Up officially opened Thursday to $9.2 million, then added a healthy $38.6 million from Friday through Sunday. Thanks to those expansive previews, the film had totaled $62 million by the end of Sunday, according to box office tracker Artisan Gateway.
A heartwarming drama, Looking Up follows a Chinese astronaut who, after losing contact with Earth, drifts through space reminiscing about the generosity and educational upbringing he received from his single dad (played by Deng, a local fan favorite from The Mermaid, Duckweed and other hits). The film is produced by Deng’s company Tianjin Chengzi Yingxiang Media, with Enlight Media, Maoyan, Tencent Pictures and Dadi Films also holding stakes.
Jon Favreau’s The Lion King, meanwhile, slipped 62 percent from its $55 million opening last week to pull in $20.8 million for its second frame. The CGI juggernaut has climbed to $97.1 million and should run out of gas somewhere around the $130 million mark in the coming weeks. That’s a respectable, if somewhat middle-of-the road, finish for a Disney mega-tentpole in China, but still better than most of the studio’s other recent remakes in the market: Aladdin ($53 million), Dumbo ($22 million), Beauty and the Beast ($85.7 million ) and The Jungle Book ($150 million).
Holdover Hong Kong crime thriller The White Storm 2: Drug Lords, starring Andy Lau, added $13.9 million in its third weekend. The film has earned $171.7 million, the market’s sixth best showing this year.
Local animation Nezha, an adaptation of a classic work of Chinese literature, crept into fourth place. The film doesn’t officially open until Friday, but it’s already generating momentum and significant earnings thanks to a cross-country roadshow of previews — an increasingly common marketing strategy in China during the summer holiday and Chinese New Year blockbuster periods.
Coming in fifth for the weekend, Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Far From Home swung past the $200 million mark, earning $3.6 million in its fourth weekend. The film is Hollywood’s second-biggest earner in China in 2019, behind only Avengers: Endgame ($614 million).
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