Ang Lee's ‘Life of Pi’ Beating Highly Touted Local Epic

The film is beating Feng Xiaogang’s historical epic "Back to 1942" at the Chinese box office.

HONG KONG – Ang Lee's Life of Pi has continued its staggering run in mainland Chinese theaters, beating off Feng Xiaogang’s historical epic, Back to 1942, for the second week running in the box office listings, with its current total earnings there surpassing its takings in the U.S.

Despite being in its third week of release, takings of Lee’s 20th Century Fox production came to more than 160 million yuan ($25.6 million), according to official figures of box office earnings from Dec. 2 to Dec. 9 announced by state-backed portal China Film News. The amount matched the film’s takings the previous week.

According to 20th Century Fox, Life of Pi has now earned $68.3 million in China. Playing in a total of 11 foreign markets, the movie's foreign gross is $105.7 million.

Back to 1942, a challenging 2-1/2-hour drama about a horrendous famine which swept across the Chinese province of Henan during the second world war, came second in the charts at 150 million yuan ($24 million).

The failure to slice Life of Pi off the top will surely disappoint the film’s producers Huayi Brothers, who have worked for a long time with Feng, one of China’s most bankable directors who have constantly claimed top-spot during the traditional New Year holiday window in the country.

While beating off a homespun blockbuster is already a feat in itself, Lee’s film has also achieved the remarkable feat of seeing its Chinese takings eclipsing that in the U.S. As if to highlight the enormous potential of the Chinese market, Life of Pi has grossed more here than in the U.S., where the film has taken $61 million by Dec. 9.

The last time a U.S. film’s Chinese release took in more than its domestic takings is with Titanic 3D. Its earnings in China, 977.1 million yuan ($156.8 million), is three times that of in the U.S.

Coming a distant third in the Chinese box office rankings the past week is The Last Supper, the period drama from Lu Chuan. Its comparatively low earnings of 28 million yuan ($4.5 million) was probably caused by lukewarm reviews and news of the film’s publicists admitting to have employed Internet users to push up ratings at movie websites as a “reaction” against what they deemed as an organized campaign of mudslinging against the film.