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China’s event film of the summer has finally arrived.
Local animation Ne Zha, which debuted last weekend to a record $91.5 million, grew 39 percent in its second outing, adding a whopping $127.3 million. After 10 days on Chinese screens, the film has climbed to $340 million.
That’s a new all-time high for an animated title in China, crushing the record previously held by Disney’s Zootopia at $236 million. Local ticketing giant Maoyan projects the film to finish at more than $600 million, which would make it China’s third biggest film ever, trailing only Wolf Warrior 2 ($854 million) and The Wandering Earth ($690 million).
Ne Zha‘s triumph is a huge win for Chinese studio Beijing Enlight, which produced the film through its new animation subsidiary Horgos Coloroom Pictures. Written and directed by first-timer Yang Yu (aka Jiaozi), the 3D feature is based on a well-known Chinese myth about the son of a deity who defies the dark fate that’s expected of him and instead becomes a heroic protector of the innocent.
The film has clicked with China’s filmgoing youth in a major way, earning historically high social scores, such as 9.7/10 on Maoyan and 8.7/10 on Douban. Its second weekend surge is all the more impressive considering the strong competition it faced from Bona Film Group’s firefighter rescue film The Bravest.
Also scoring well with filmgoers — 9.6 on Maoyan; 6.7 on Douban — The Bravest earned $56.2 million from Friday to Sunday. The film’s total is $81.7 million, including roadshow previews and its opening-day earnings Thursday, Aug. 1 — which was Army Day, a holiday celebrating the founding of the People’s Liberation Army.
Directed by Tony Chan and produced by Andrew Lau, the film follows a band of firefighters who battle to contain an enormous conflagration after an oil pipeline explodes. The film is loosely based on the real response to an oil pipeline disaster that took place in China’s Liaoning Province in 2010. It’s the first feature in Bona’s China Pride Trilogy, a film series of soft propaganda glorifying real-life Chinese heroes.
Joining these two blockbusters at the Chinese multiplex this week will be Line Walker 2 and sci-fi spectacle Shanghai Fortress, which open Wednesday and Friday, respectively.
Starring Hong Kong veterans Nick Cheung and Louis Koo, the first Line Walker film earned $89 million in 2016. Both stars have returned for the sequel.
Shanghai Fortress‘ fate will likely rest on how favorably it compares with local sci-fi smash The Wandering Earth. An alien invasion epic, the film stars pop star-turned-actor Lu Han and Taiwanese actress Shu Qi as two heroes battling to save Shanghai, which stands as humanity’s last line of defense.
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Sterling K. Brown