China Box Office: Future Looks Bleak for 'Tomorrowland' as 'Doraemon' Takes Top Spot

Stand By Me Doraemon H 2015

The manga movie reaps rewards as Japan relations thaw.

The manga movie Stand By Me Doraemon topped the Chinese charts last week as the first Japanese movie shown in China in nearly three years took $38.29 million in its first four days.

Doraemon, a chubby cat robot with a magical pocket, is hugely popular in China, and the return of the iconic character is believed to reflect warming relations between the world's second- and third-biggest economies.

According to the research group Entgroup, the movie had 173,743 screenings and 6.8 million admissions in its first four days in China.

There was a lot of online buzz about the movie before it opened. On China's movie rating site Douban, the film got a rating of 8.6, which is the equivalent of 4.5 out of 5 stars, while netizens filed multiple positive posts about the character.

Since September 2012, there have been heightened tensions between Japan and China over disputed islands in the East China Sea, as well as Tokyo’s perceived failure to properly atone for WW II atrocities. The last Japanese film to unspool here was Ultraman in 2012.

In second place, Disney's superhero blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron racked up another $17.03 million for a gross of $226.79 million after 20 days in China.

Disney's Tomorrowland had a disappointing opening, despite a visit by George Clooney, director Brad Bird and Britt Robertson to promote the movie. After six days, it had taken $14.11 million, with 2.6 million admissions and 194,144 showings.

Hollywood has had a storming start to the year with Furious 7 and Avengers, and there are more big titles to come in the next few weeks, with San Andreas opening June 2, Jurassic World on June 10, The Divergent Series: Insurgent on June 13 and Mad Max: Fury Road also possibly opening this month, though no date has yet been set.

Behind Tomorrowland came the Bollywood tentpole PK, which took another $6.89 million for a total of $12.04 million after 10 days.

Behind that came Happy Little Submarine Magic Box of Time, which took $2.34 million for a cume of $2.36 million, followed by Mr Deng Goes To Washington, which took $1.05 million for a goss of $1.84 million.

Love Without Distance took $1.04 million for a cume of $4.6 million, while The Grow 2 took $420,000 in its opening weekend. The legal drama 12 Citizens, which has been given more screenings by Wanda, added $360,000 for a gross of $2.04 million.

Twitter: @cliffordcoonan