China Box Office: 'Gone With the Bullets' Opens on Top Despite Mixed Reviews

Jiang Wen - H 2014

Jiang Wen - H 2014

After clearing China's censors, Jiang Wen's 3D epic opened to strong admissions in spite of a lukewarm critical reception

Jiang Wen's 3D epic Gone With the Bullets opened strong in China, taking $54.29 million in its opening four days despite mixed reviews and after a battle with censors to secure a release.

Gone With the Bullets chalked up 224,081 screenings and 7.9 million admissions in its first four days, according to data from the research group Entgroup.

Bullets, which is set in Shanghai in the 1920s, is the follow-up (though not exactly a sequel to) Let the Bullets Fly. In the movie, Ma Zouri, played by Jiang himself, and Xiang Feitian (Ge You) start a beauty contest which ends tragically, and the story runs from there.

It's not clear how big a factor the censor's demands were in lessening the movie's impact, but many of the reviews said the film was somewhat confused. Global Times said it had "an abundance of ingredients that spark very little chemistry."

After strong pre-sales, there had been hopes that Bullets would give Transformers: Age of Extinction a run for its money, but the last installment of Michael Bay's robot franchise still holds that record, with $90 million in its opening weekend from 166,446 screenings, with 14.7 million admissions.

Bullets also did less than The Monkey King in February, which took a record $41 million on its opening day and made nearly $65 million in its first four days.

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The big-name Chinese epics have not performed as well as expected during this holiday period, which runs until February with Chinese New Year, and a lot of hope is resting on Tsui Hark’s 3D epic The Taking of Tiger Mountain to shore up receipts for domestic movies in the remainder of the year.

The coming-of-age drama Fleet of Time continued to do good business, taking another $15.92 million for a cume of $88.94 million after 10 days. Adapted from a popular novel by Jiu Yehui and directed by Zhang Yibai, Fleet of Time features Ni Ni, Eddie Peng and Ryan Zheng in a story about a group of school friends growing up in the 1990s and 2000s, key periods during which China was transformed.

It continued to show widely, with 184,483 screenings and 2.8 million admissions in the week to Dec. 21, according to Entgroup.

Behind that was the romantic comedy Meet Miss Anxiety, which was directed by South Korean film director Kwak Jae-yong and stars Zhou Xun, Zhang Zilin, Tong Dawei and Wallace Chung. The movie took another $9.73 million in its first full week, with 165,077 screenings and 1.96 million admissions.

John Woo's big-budget epic The Crossing: Part 1 took another $3.24 million for a cume of $29.75 million after 20 days. The Crossing, which is showing in two parts in Asia and was produced by Woo and his longtime collaborator Terrence Chang, had 47,852 screenings and 571,000 million admissions.

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In fifth place was Pang Ho-Cheung's ensemble drama Women Who Flirt, which took another $2.54 million for a cume of $36.72 million after 24 days. The Mandarin-language movie stars Zhou Xun, Huang Xiaoming, Sui Tang and Xie Yilin.

The biggest-performing foreign film of the week was the Korean movie The Admiral: Roaring Currents, which took another $1.78 million for a cume of $3.98 million after 10 days, while Brad Pitt's war movie Fury took another $600,000 for a gross of $19.18 million after 31 days.
Shen Dong's The Galaxy on the Earth added another $540,000 for a cume of $4.7 million.

Behind that was Lou Ye's Blind Massage, which won a host of gongs at the Golden Horse awards in Taipei and also made waves at the Berlin International Film Festival last year. However, box office has been small, with the movie taking another $500,000 after 24 days for a gross of $1.25 million.

Twitter: @cliffordcoonan