China Box Office: ‘American Dreams’ Topples ‘Iron Man 3’ To Top Weekly Charts

American Dreams in China Film Still - H 2013
China Film Co.

Peter Chan’s rites-of-passage drama about three cram-school tutors sends Chinese blogosphere abuzz, taking more in three days than the Marvel franchise in a week.

HONG KONG – “The fiercest of tigers wouldn’t be able to compete with bugs on their own turf.” It’s a Chinese proverb which Marvel Pictures’ executives should know by now, with Iron Man 3 finally surging past an overtly hyped homegrown drama in ticket sales totals, only to see their march bogged down by yet another much-discussed locally produced drama during the weekend.

According to initial estimates released Monday by the state-backed China Film News miniblog, Iron Man 3’s total earnings by as of May 19 finally had surpassed that of Vicki Zhao Wei’s 1990s-set college-life drama So Young. The Robert Downey Jr-starrer has taken nearly $114 million (700 million yuan), up to and including Sunday; So Young, meanwhile boasts of total revenue of about $112.3 million (690 million yuan).

But Iron Man 3’s takings for the past week – $13.5 million (83 million yuan) – pale into insignificance when compared to the staggering performance of American Dreams in China. Peter Chan’s epoch-spanning film about three cram-school tutors getting rich in China in the 1980s and '90s already has taken more than $16.3 million (100 million yuan) since it took its bows May 17 (with sneak previews also held the day before).

Meanwhile, the China Film News estimates also had Oblivion taking over $16.3 million (100 million yuan) since its May 10 opening, and The Croods at about $52.1 million (320 million yuan) – numbers that are expected to see foreign imports taking a larger percentage of total takings in May than local films, after a first quarter that saw the box office nearly dominated by homegrown fare.

The success of American Dreams – an ironic title, given how the film’s dominant idea is about how the Chinese are a rising power who could attain what they want by themselves – also has seen cineplexes allocating a king’s share of screenings to the film.

According to figures made available on the Chinese-language Dianyingpiaofang (“Film Box Office”) portal, American Dreams is slated to take up nearly 37 percent of the 24,000 shows across the country, compared to 17 percent for Iron Man 3, 14.2 percent for So Young, 13.7 percent for Oblivion and 9.5 percent for The Croods.

Django Unchained will play in 709 screenings across China on Monday – 3 percent of the total shows for the day – with the number expected to diminish further as interest waned. Re-released May 10 after being yanked from cinemas on its initial opening date of Apr. 10, Quentin Tarantino’s revenge drama never really regained the momentum with widespread reports of censors removing more scenes of nudity and bloodshed from the film. It has taken just over $2.11 million (13 million yuan), according to China Film News’ figures.