China Box Office: Earnings Slow to a Trickle Ahead of Lunar New Year Bonanza

'Shock Wave 2'
Courtesy of Universe Entertainment

'Shock Wave 2'

Holdover Chinese crime thriller 'Shock Wave 2' earned $4.8 million compared to just $2.1 million stateside for Warner Bros.' 'The Little Things.'

China's multiplexes were mostly silent over the weekend as the country—and its film industry—continued to gear up for the lucrative Lunar New Year holiday. Total ticket sales were just $22.9 million, the lowest of any weekend so far in 2021.

The sluggish earnings in China were still vastly better than the washout weekend in North America, where crime drama The Little Things won the Super Bowl weekend with a dismal $2.3 million.

Andy Lau's holdover action thriller Shock Wave 2 topped China's box office with $4.8 million. The film opened weeks ago on Christmas Eve and has totaled $196.3 million to date, according to box office tracker Artisan Gateway.

Slipping to second place was fellow holdover blockbuster A Little Red Flower, the cancer drama, which added $4.5 million for a cumulative total of $216 million. That's the most of any film worldwide in 2021.

Hollywood's only presence in China in recent weeks has been Disney/Pixar's Soul, which opened 45 days ago but continues to sell tickets at a modest but steady clip. The film earned $1.71 million over the past weekend, bringing its China cume to approximately $56 million. The jazz-themed film is now Pixar's second-biggest title ever in China, having overtaken The Incredibles 2 ($51.5 million, 2018). Only Coco ($189 million, 2017) has done bigger business there for the studio.

China's film industry is essentially in a holding pattern until the Lunar New Year kicks off on Feb. 12 and runs for seven consecutive national holidays. More than one-tenth of China's annual box office sales usually take place during the week of Chinese New Year, and expectations are particularly high for 2021 after the coronavirus outbreak wiped out last year's holiday bonanza.

Seven tentpoles are scheduled to open on Feb. 12, with two more releasing on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14). Advanced ticket sales have already surpassed $60 million since going on sale at the end of January.