HONG KONG — What does it take to bring Superman to ground? What angry birds or war planes couldn’t do, a teen-oriented rite-of-passage drama did — as Man of Steel was thrown off the top in mainland China’s daily box-office rankings just a week into its release there.
Having been locked in a neck-and-neck struggle with the Jet Li-starring action film Badges of Fury in the past few days, Man of Steel finally surrendered its shaky grip atop the earnings rankings on Thursday upon the release of Tiny Times, writer-turned-filmmaker Guo Jingming’s adaptation of his own novel about four young women’s glitzy passages to adulthood in Shanghai.
According to figures accumulated by entertainment industry analysts Entgroup, Tiny Times broke the Chinese opening-day record for a solely 2D release by taking $11.2 million (69 million yuan) on Thursday, with the film having already taken $1.2 million (7.3 million yuan) in sneak previews held the previous day.
Man of Steel, which averages a ticket price of $6.65 (41 yuan) per head across the country, took $2 million (12.3 million yuan), with its total earnings now standing at $37 million (228 million yuan). Badges of Fury — which was also a 2D-only movie, with average ticket prices standing at $5 (31 yuan) — came in third on Thursday with $1.75 million (10.8 million yuan), taking its total earnings to $25.7 million (158.4 yuan).
The revenue trends on Thursday have led to a drastic increase in the number of screenings of Tiny Times. Entgroup’s statistics have revealed the film as taking up more than half of all shows across China on Friday — that’s more than 30,000 for the day — with Badges of Fury and Man of Steel securing only about 18 percent and 16 percent of screenings, respectively. Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou remained as the three cities still giving Clark Kent more than one-fifth of its screenings.
But the backlash has already begun for Tiny Times, with its staggering ticket sales running contrary to the mauling it received online – the film averaged ratings of 3.4 and 5.0 out of 10 on mtime.com and douban.com, two of China’s most-visited movie portals.
Commentators have frowned on how the film’s emphasis on glamorous lifestyles have rendered the whole premise vacuous, with seasoned critic Zhou Liming going to the extremes of writing on his miniblog about how the “flaunting of wealth in the film has reached pathological levels” — a comment that has led to him being barracked by hate tweets. The Southern Metropolis Daily, one of the country’s most influential newspapers, reported of viewers exiting screenings describing the film as being “pretentious” and “only suitable for high school students.”
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in Shanghai last week, Guo said his film is made with China’s new “me generation” in mind, that “these days it’s all about looking after myself — saying, ‘I want to enjoy life the way I like it.’” The director reiterated the point to the Chinese press after the film’s launch in Beijing on Thursday, saying how “a film couldn’t satisfy everyone, and I have never wanted to make a film suited for both the old and the young.”