China Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' Fires Up World's Second Biggest Film Market

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Film Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Dreamworks Animation LLC

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Film Still - H 2014

Films about dragons always do well in China

DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon 2 torched the opposition at the box office in China, scoring a fiery $26.4 million (162.15 million yuan) in its opening weekend, the biggest-ever opening for a toon in the world's second-largest film market.

The film had 130,586 screenings and 4.28 million admissions in the week to Aug. 17, according to data from the research group Entgroup. The opening figure is broadly in line with the $32.2 million number issued by the studio.

Movies about dragons, especially ones with positive depictions of the legendary beasts, always stand a fighting chance in China, where they are a symbol of benevolent power and are extremely lucky.

The movie, directed by Dean DeBlois and released by Fox, is already the year’s highest-grossing animated film internationally, overtaking another Fox release, Rio 2, which has collected $494 million worldwide, and Warner's The Lego Movie, with a worldwide figure of $468 million.

DreamWorks is working hard to build links in China, collaborating on a $2.4 billion entertainment complex in Shanghai, while Oriental DreamWorks, a joint venture between DreamWorks and Chinese partners, is making Kung Fu Panda 3.

In second place at the box office was Luc Besson’s rebooting of the French film District B13, Brick Mansions, one of the last roles for Paul Walker.

It took another $6.96 million for a cume of $28.38 million after 17 days, and it had 71,312 screenings and 1.37 million admissions. Walker’s association with the vastly popular Fast & Furious franchise has given the late action star a strong boost in China.

The film was imported on a flat-fee basis and does not come under the revenue-sharing movie arrangement, the numbers of which are restricted to around 32 films by quota every year.

Last week was a good one for overseas movies.

Pompeii, directed by Resident Evil’s Paul W.S. Anderson, made $6.7 million in its opening weekend, with 55,957 screenings and 1.15 million admissions for the blockbuster volcano yarn, featuring Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) and Emily Browning (Sucker Punch).

Live-action martial arts epic Brotherhood of Blades, directed by Lu Yang and featuring Cecilia Liu and Chang Chen, was in fourth place, taking $6.25 million in its first full week for a total of $12.25 million.

Fantasy epic The White Haired Witch of the Lunar Kingdom by Hong Kong director Jacob Cheung slipped to fifth place after 18 days on release.

Bona’s film has made $61.85 million in China after taking an additional $5.97 million last week.

The film is the latest adapation of Liang Yusheng's classic wuxia fantasy novel, starring Fan Bingbing as the eponymous white-haired sorceress, with Tsui Hark as an artistic consultant.

In sixth place was Pegasus Motion Pictures $8 million Z Storm, which was produced by John Chong and directed by David Lam. Z Storm tells the story of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption’s battle against criminals, and it dovetails nicely with a nationwide anti-graft campaign. Z Storm took $5.44 million in its first two days.

Behind that was Han Han’s road movie The Continent, which took another $4.64 million to push its cume just over the $100 million threshold. The Continent features Feng Shaofeng and Chen Bolin on journey of self-discovery.

In eighth place was Girls (Gui Mi) by Hong Kong director Barbara Wong. The mainland China-backed, Taipei-set film took another $3.87 million for a cume of $32.18 million.

Yugo & Lala 2 took another $3.42 million to bring its cume to $8.63 million, and rounding out the top 10 was the domestic 3D animated movie The Legend of Qin, a TV adaptation which took $3.2 million in its first full week for a total of $9.25 million.

Aug. 19, 02:40 a.m.: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Luc Besson as Jean-Luc Besson. THR regrets the error. 

Twitter: @cliffordcoonan