Zhang Yimou’s spy thriller Cliff Walkers was the best reviewed new release to open over China’s lucrative May Day holiday weekend, but it was far from the biggest earner.
Youth romance My Love, from Beijing Enlight Pictures, overcame withering reviews to dominate the start of the long holiday frame, earning $65.1 million from Friday to Sunday. Cliff Walkers landed second with $38.8 million, according to data from regional box-office tracker Artisan Gateway. China’s May Day national holiday continues until May 5.
My Love is a remake of the hit South Korean romantic drama On Your Wedding Day (2018). The films tell the story of unrequited between two former high school classmates, tracking their romance over a 15-year period until the female character marries another man. The Chinese version stars Taiwanese actor and model Greg Hsu (aka Greg Han) and actress Zhang Ruonan.
Despite its strong commercial start, My Love has been torched by critics and earned tepid ratings from users of ticketing apps. The film has an average review score of 5.3/10 on movie buff site Douban, and 8.1 and 8 from ticketing giants Maoyan and Taopiaopiao.
Cliff Walkers‘ ratings, meanwhile, are the highest of any title currently on release — 7.7 on Douban and 9.1 on both Maoyan and Taopiaopiao.
The film is Zhang’s first attempt at the spy genre, taking place in the snowy, shadowy world of 1930s Manchukuo, the puppet state set up in northern China by pre-World War II imperial Japan. Starring Zhang Yi (Operation Red Sea), Yu Hewei (I Am Not Madame Bovary), Qin Hailu (The Pluto Moment) and Zhu Yawen (The Captain), the film follows four Communist party special agents who have returned to China after receiving special training in the Soviet Union. Together, they embark on a secret mission code-named “Utrennya.” After being sold out by a traitor, the team find themselves surrounded by threats on all sides from the moment they parachute in.
New Classic Media’s Aaron Kwok starring drama thriller Home Sweet Home opened Saturday and took third place for the full weekend, earning $19.4 million. The film also has been somewhat poorly received, however, with a rating of just 7.9 on Maoyan and 5.8 on Douban.
New action crime flicks claimed the rest of China’s top five over the holiday. Once Upon a Time in Hong Kong, co-directed by Wong Jing and Woody Hui and starring Hong Kong mainstays Louis Koo and Tony Leung, brought in $13.8 million, while Break Through the Darkness, which dramatizes China’s anti-organized police force, made a $7.3 million start.
China’s 2021 box-office total, so far, is 12.3 percent lower than the equivalent first five months of 2019, the last year of earnings that were unaffected by the pandemic.