China Box Office: Homegrown, Seattle-set Rom-com Stays on Top, Beating 'Oz'

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Tang Wei

"Finding Mr. Right" consolidates its grip as the No. 1 earner for the third consecutive week, with two other local films edging Disney's James Franco flick to fourth place.

HONG KONG -- Fresh after giving domestic productions nearly 70 percent of total box office takings in the first three months of 2013, the Chinese audience’s reignited love affair with homegrown fare continues into April, with Chinese films taking the top honors on earnings rankings for the past week.

While industry figures reflect on Hollywood’s noises about China-set ventures such as Iron Man 3 and Transformers 4, Chinese filmgoers have been busy consuming a U.S.-set, Chinese-language romantic comedy.

Finding Mr. Right, revolving around the growing affections in Seattle between an obnoxious material girl (Tang Wei) and a down-and-out single father (Wu Xiubo), took $23.5 million (146 million yuan) from April 1-7, according to figures released by the state-backed China Film News blog. The film has occupied pole position in the weekly standings ever since its release on March 21, and has generated $63.2 million (392 million yuan) through Saturday.

Xue Xiaolu’s comedy was followed in the rankings by Guan Hu’s The Chef, The Actor and the Scoundrel, which added $18.5 million (115 million yuan) during the past week to a total now standing at US$31.3 million (194 million yuan). The narco-thriller Drug War, Johnnie To’s first mainstream foray into mainland Chinese cinema and co-produced by the state-backed Huaxia Film and China Movie Channel, took third place with $12.9 million (80 million yuan).

After a promising first week, business for Oz the Great and Powerful slowed with takings of $11.6 million (72 million yuan), ranking it fourth in the past week, with total earnings of $20.9 million (130 million yuan). Even more disappointing is Jack the Giant Slayer, its aspirations to make a killing in China floundering to a trickle, as the film, which is in its second full week on release, added a mere $1.2 million (7.6 million yuan). The film has generated just $8.2 million (51 million yuan) so far.

Finding Mr. Right is the latest in a string of domestic comedies that have enthralled mainland Chinese audiences, whom critics have feared would be taken by an increasing barrage of international blockbusters released in the country (the result of the expansion of the import-film quota from 20 to 34 last year).

While 2012 was the first time foreign films took more than domestic productions in China in a single calendar year, 2013 has proven to be a boon for homegrown filmmakers, as Lost in Thailand, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons and CZ12 blazing trails as they surge towards box-office records in the first quarter of the year. The films now stand as the three highest-grossing Chinese films ever released in the country.

The success of Finding Mr. Right and the mid-budget The Chef, The Actor and the Scoundrel, and Chinese New Year/Valentine’s Day hits such as Say Yes and Bring Happiness Home, illustrated a reignited belief in the local market towards earthy comedies devoid of digital gimmickry and mammoth production values.