China Box Office: Indian Comedy 'Toilet: A Love Story' Tops Quiet Weekend

Toilet Ek Prem Katha Still - H 2018
Reliance Entertainment

The film is the first China release from Global Road Entertainment, which licensed the title from its Indian investor Reliance Entertainment.

Indian dramedy Toilet: A Love Story came out on top during one of the slowest weekends of the year so far at the Chinese box office.

The imported Bollywood hit earned $9.1 million from Friday to Sunday, narrowly beating holdover romantic comedy How Long Will I Love U with $8.5 million.

The first-place finish represents a continuation of Indian cinema's hot streak in the huge Chinese film market. Since the breakout smash success of Indian blockbuster Dangal ($190 million) last year, imported Bollywood fare has consistently connected with the Chinese mainstream (more on the trend here).

Toilet's triumph also represents a win for Donald Tang's growing mini studio Global Road Entertainment. The film is the Los Angeles- and Beijing-based company's first release in the Middle Kingdom, a market Tang envisions as a pillar of the studio's growth strategy. Global Road licensed Toilet from Reliance Entertainment; the Indian entertainment giant is one of Global Road's strategic investors. The film was then imported by China Film Group and co-distributed by Lian Ray Pictures. Global Road previously participated in the China release of Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs as a marketing partner. 

Directed by Shree Narayan Singh, the film was retitled Toilet Hero (Cesuo Yingxiong) for the China market. The movie tells the story of an Indian man who manages to win back the heart of his newlywed wife by building an in-house toilet for her, a break from the local custom of doing one's business out in the open air. The film was inspired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Clean India Movement, a campaign to improve sanitary conditions in the country.

Over the weekend, Toilet received a surprise vote of confidence from none less than Bill Gates, who posted support for the film on Chinese social media service Weibo, saying that it "lets viewers see India's progress in environmental hygiene," and that he was "very glad to hear that this movie was released in China."

Toilet opened in second place Friday behind Black Water, a B-movie action flick starring Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Black Water quickly slid down the charts, however, and finished the weekend in sixth place with $6.3 million. Toilet, meanwhile, steadily climbed thanks to mostly positive word of mouth. Chinese comedy Happiness is Coming opened in third with $7.1 million, followed by Disney and Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War. Still going strong after 31 days on release and boosted by a one-month release extension, the tentpole added $6.6 million for a cumulative total of $366 million.

The Chinese box office can be expected to roar back to life Friday with the release of Universal's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The first Jurassic World film earned $229 million in China in 2015.