China Box Office: 'Croods 2' Beats Zhang Yimou's Censored Drama 'One Second'

The Croods: A New Age
Universal Pictures/Photofest

The Universal and DreamWorks Animation sequel debuted in China to a healthy $19.2 million, $5 million more than it earned over its 5-day North American start.

Universal's The Croods: A New Age was the decisive winner of a competitive three-way race at China's box office over the weekend, topping both holdover local hit Caught in Time and the latest release from venerated Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou.

Croods 2 opened in China to a healthy $19.2 million, which was $5 million more than its five-day holiday start in North America. Worldwide, the animated family film has earned $35 million — the best Hollywood studio rollout in weeks, as the pandemic continues to weigh on key markets around the globe. The first Croods film grossed $63 million in China.

Croods 2 started the weekend from behind, earning just $3 million on Friday, behind $3.2 million for One Second and $3.4 million for Caught in Time. But the animated sequel quickly struck a chord with filmgoers, and was lived into first by a wave of positive word of mouth. By Monday, Croods 2 had a score of 9.1 out of 10 on ticketing app Maoyan and 8.2 from film site Douban's taste-making user community.

Directed by Joel Crawford, Croods 2's voice cast sees the return of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke and Cloris Leachman. Franchise newcomers include Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann and Kelly Marie Tran.

Caught in Time, produced by Hong Kong's Emperor Motion Pictures, fell to second place for the full frame with $13.7 million, while Zhang's One Second, backed by Huanxi Media, landed in third with an opening of just $10.6 million, according to data from Artisan Gateway.

Zhang has referred to One Second as his "love letter to cinema" and acknowledged that the movie is much more art-house in style and pacing than his more recent action releases. The film has been well received by local critics but it proved a tougher sell to mainstream filmgoers, scoring a middling 8.7 on Maoyan and 7.9 on Douban (China's social scores tend to skew high compared to U.S. counterparts like Rotten Tomatoes).

One Second's commercial release concludes a fraught journey through China's increasingly repressive censorship system. The movie was scheduled to open in competition at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival, but it was yanked from the program hours before its premiere, with producers citing vague "technical reasons," a common euphemism for censorship issues in Beijing. The film is set during Mao Zedong’s disastrous Cultural Revolution, which the ruling Chinese Communist Party still regards as politically sensitive.

After the movie was withdrawn from Berlin, Zhang conducted a substantial reshoot on location in China's remote Gansu Province; it's unclear how much of his original version was changed. But even after the director reworked the film and it was again granted official censorship approval by Beijing regulators, there was still more political heat to come. One Second was selected to open China's state-backed Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival, which kicked off Nov. 25. Days before its festival premiere, though, the movie was yet again withdrawn. The proffered explanation: "technical reasons."