China Box Office: Feng Xiaogang's 'Personal Tailor' Takes Record Opening

Courtesy of CineAsia
Feng Xiaogang

The comedy triumphs in the face of critical hostility and investor skepticism, earning $51.91 million in its first four days.

Personal Tailor, the latest movie by popular director Feng Xiaogang, topped China's box office in the week through Dec. 22, taking a record-breaking $51.91 million in its first four days despite investor dislike and a sour critical reaction.

This is a record for a 2D movie opening in China according to box office data from Entgroup, breaking the record set by Journey to the West last year. The film also holds the record for first-week box office.

"Personal Tailor marks the 20th anniversary of our proud partnership with director Feng Xiaogang. The record-breaking box office performance of Personal Tailor celebrates the culmination of Feng's groundbreaking contributions to Chinese cinema," Huayi Brothers president Wang Zhonglei (James Wang) told The Hollywood Reporter.

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In its first four days, the Huayi Brothers' production was shown on 194,137 screens, with 9.108 million admissions and an average ticket price of $5.70. On days one and two, the movie took $15 million (152 million yuan), with the movie screening on 57 percent of all screens in China.

"When Feng Xiaogang and [actor] Ge You come together to create something special, the response never fails to astound us. With over ten million admissions in just four days, the reaction from audiences is reflective of China's rapid growth and potential. We are very excited to see how China's market will further develop in the years to come," said Wang.

With a screenplay by novelist and longtime Feng collaborator Wang Shuo, the movie is a return to comedy for Feng, the genre in which he earned his popularity with films like Big Shot's Funeral, If You Are the One and Cellphone.

Personal Tailor follows a group of actors who run a company that helps people live out their fantasies and is a sequel of sorts to Feng's 1997 hit The Dream Factory, which was also written by Wang.

The movie has satirical elements, which include poking fun at corrupt government officials and a filmmaker who tries to become a more serious director. The advance buzz has been negative -- some online critics said it was Feng's worst movie ever -- because his more recent projects have seen mixed results as he, similar to the director character in the movie, tries to become a more highbrow cineaste.

In the run-up to the debut, a number of funds had dumped stock in Huayi Brothers after a special advance screening of the movie. Shares in Huayi lost $490 million in a single day after fund managers said the stock was "overpriced."

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The war movie Assembly and earthquake epic Aftershock did well, but last year's Back to 1942, which deals with a devastating famine and features Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins, failed to impress Chinese audiences. 

Still performing strongly in second place during the week of Dec. 16 to Dec. 22 was Firestorm, a Hong Kong police action film featuring Andy Lau and Gordon Lam, which took $16.22 million in its second week for a total of $43.55 million, after 11 days of release. According to Entgroup, the movie was shown on 149,043 screens and had 2.592 million admissions. The $20 million project, produced by Bill Kong and Lau, is the directorial debut of Alan Yuen, previously known for penning several of Hong Kong director Benny Chan’s action blockbusters, including New Police Story and Shaolin.

The Chinese box office this year has already passed the 20 billion yuan ($3.3 billion) threshold and is gearing up for a busy holiday season, which in China covers Christmas, an increasingly important festival here, and Chinese New Year next month. The period will likely be dominated by local fare, as the quota of Hollywood movies has already been filled for the year.

And what a run Ning Hao's edgy road movie No Man's Land is having. Despite being banned for nearly three years before its release, the movie has put in a powerful performance, earning $4.65 million last week and currently totaling $40.66 million.

Hong Kong director Gordon Chan's 3D martial arts movie, The Four 2, racked up $2.64 million to bring its total so far to $27.93 million, while Benny Chan's action thriller The White Storm took $2.39 million over the week for a cumulative total of $37.89 million.

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Among Hollywood movies, Epic remains strong, edging into sixth place during the week, slightly ahead of Alfonso Cuaron's sci-fi epic Gravity. Epic took $640,000 during the week to give a cumulative total of $8.02 million after 24 days of release, while Gravity took $540,000. Its cumulative total is now $70.68 million after 34 days in Chinese theaters.

Rounding out the Hollywood fare was Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which took $170,000 in the week to Dec. 22, for a total of $27.92 million in 32 days at the Chinese box office.