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A collection of high-profile local films released in China over the past week to coincide with the country’s National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holiday period, which lasts eight days. Jackie Chan’s latest action flick, Vanguard opened on Wednesday and has earned a healthy $24.7 million, according to local box office tracker Artisan Gateway.
But the real news is a pair of local tentpoles that unfurled on Thursday: Beijing Culture’s anthology film My People, My Homeland, which has grossed a whopping $137.8 million; and Enlight Pictures’ 3D animated feature Legend of Deification, with $136.2 million and counting. The animated hit drew the most excitement on opening day, but slipped behind My People, My Homeland as the ticket sales began to track the two films’ early social scores from filmgoers. Legend of Deification has a score of 8.4/10 on ticketing app Maoyan and 7.6/10 on Alibaba’s Taopiaopiao, while My People, My Homeland has become the clear favorite with 9.3/10 on both platforms.
The powerful performance of the two Chinese tentpoles stands in extreme contrast to the dismal situation at U.S. theaters. During the same period that China’s box office was generating hundreds of millions of earnings, Warner Bros. Tenet lead the North American market with approximately $3 million in sales. A rerelease of the 1993 Halloween cult classic Hocus Pocus came in second over the Oct. 2-4 frame with a mere $2 million.
The national holiday in China doesn’t end until Saturday and both of the reining blockbusters are projected to continue putting up huge numbers. Maoyan forecasts My People, My Homeland to finish its run at $440 million and Legend of Deification to clock out at $219 million.
My People, My Homeland is a follow-up to a similar patriotic omnibus My People, My Country, which opened over the same holiday stretch in 2019 and eventually grossed $425 million. Like its predecessor, the new feature is comprised of five stories made jointly by nine big-name Chinese directors. The directors involved include heavyweights like Zhang Yimou, Ning Hao, Xu Zheng, Chen Sicheng, Deng Chao and others. While the stories that made up last year’s collection were all about celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, this year’s pro-Party theme is poverty alleviation in the PRC.
Legend of Deification originally was scheduled to open during Chinese New Year in late January, but its release was postponed along with all of the other holiday tentpoles as the local industry went into lockdown in response to the then-emerging coronavirus epidemic. The film is a follow-up to Enlight’s 2019 animation mega-hit Ne Zha ($729 million). The new film is set in the same universe as Ne Zha but isn’t a direct sequel; both features are loosely based on characters from the 16th-century classic Chinese novel The Investiture of the Gods.
Additional Chinese films on release also are generating buzz and earnings that any film in North America would envy. Peter Chan’s volleyball epic Leap, which debuted over the last weekend of September with $24.8 million, has continued riding rave reviews (9.2 on Maoyan), generating significant sales. The film brought in $19.1 during its second frame, taking its total to $67.1 million. It is expected to total around $120 million.
Alibaba Pictures’ low-budget youth comedy Coffee or Tea, directed by Derek Hui, also is off to a solid start. The film opened midway though the holiday on Oct. 4 with $4 million — from a screen share of less than 5 percent. Positive reviews and high per-screen averages augur well for the film’s future though. Maoyan forecasts the film to take in $26 million by the end of its run.
Imax China did especially well during the holiday stretch. The giant screen operator earned a record-setting $13 million across releases, up 25 percent over last year’s holiday weekend.
“The remarkable strength of the box office recovery in China continues to exceed our expectations, and the country has emerged as an engine of stability for IMAX as uncertainty persists around the Hollywood slate and theaters re-openings elsewhere in the world,” said Rich Gelfond, CEO of Imax.
Hollywood’s holdovers in China, meanwhile, have been mostly pushed off screens. Warner Bros. Tenet, with a respectable China total of about $66 million, added less than $500,000 over the holiday weekend. Mulan‘s earnings, meanwhile, totaled in the meager tens of thousands. The scandal-ridden Disney live-action tentpole has totaled just $40.8 million in China — a crushing disappointment given that the film was tailor-made for big earnings the Middle Kingdom.
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