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It was a claustrophobic week for Hollywood at the top of the Chinese box office.
In the sort of scheduling smackdown China’s film regulators tend to prefer – pack the foreign tentpoles head-to-head, then give local blockbusters free rein, goes the logic – Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s Minions and Sony’s Pixels battled and scrabbled for their share of the world’s second largest film market.
Tom Cruise‘s Rogue Nation narrowly won the week (Sept. 14-20) with $33.7 million, falling 60 percent from its $86.4 million haul the week prior. The film’s China total now stands at $120.29 million after 13 days of release, according to Chinese data analyst Entgroup, contributing to a worldwide cume of $656.4 million for Paramount and Skydance.
Minions was just a step behind, taking $31.3 million for an eight-day cumulative gross of $49.8 million, according to studio figures.
Pixels, meanwhile, premiered in China on Sept. 15, earning a disappointing $11.2 million in its first six days, according to studio figures. Sony needed a strong performance in China, as the latest Adam Sandler disappointment has now earned just $145.1 million overseas and $220.7 million globally. A strong China showing may have been unlikely from the start, as the film’s retro video-game concept plays more exotic than nostalgic in China, given that imported video game consoles were banned in the country until this past July.
In fourth place, Korean blockbuster Assassination pulled in $3.9 million in four days, according to Entgroup. Already the biggest film of the year at home in South Korea, Assassination likely connected with like-minded audiences in China thanks to its nationalistic World War II story and visceral anti-Japanese sentiment – themes that do troublingly well in polarized East Asia these days.
Ulterior Motive, a local crime thriller from director Arthur Wong, opened in fifth place with $1.49 million after seven days.
Hong Kong star Andy Lau‘s next action vehicle, Saving Mr. Wu, landed in sixth place with $1.22 million from just 10,500 preview screenings, which augurs well for its wide release on Sept. 30.
At the bottom of the list, no film cracked $1 million for the week. State propaganda picture Hundred Regiments Offensive grossed $.91 million, adding to its fraudulent cume of $63.2 million. Bona Film Group’s crime thriller The Dead End grossed another $.84 million, pulling its total to just under $50 million, while local action flick Evil Calls opened to $.65 million, and all all-time Chinese box office champ Monster Hunt added to its record with $.63 million for a total of $382.49 million after 67 days in cinemas.
With the Hollywood tentpoles tiring after cannibalizing each other, expect local comedy Lost in Hong Kong to make a big splash when it debuts in China Friday. The film was produced by the same team as former box-office record holder Lost in Thailand.
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