China Box Office: 'Monster Hunt' Triumphs in Smaller Cities, Eyes 'Furious 7's' All-Time Record

Monster Hunt Still 2 - H 2015
Courtesy of Edko Films

The CGI/live action fantasy epic is the first Chinese movie ever to earn more than two billion yuan ($320 million) at the box office.

Hong Kong director Raman Hui's Monster Hunt is now the second highest grossing movie of all time in China, having earned over $330 million in the world's second biggest film market, and is now eyeing Furious 7's record after having its run extended thru Sept. 15.

Monster Hunt racked up another $39.43 million in the week to Aug. 9, according to data from research group Entgroup, for a cume of $330.32 million after 25 days, with 230,828 showings and 6.67 million admissions.

After 25 days in the pole position, the extension of the movie's run puts it in a good position to break the record set by Furious 7, which made $391 million in China.

Chinese films accounted for all of the top movies last week, with the large number of admissions boosted by the ongoing school and college vacations. The annual blackout on Hollywood tentpoles until at least mid-August will also have helped.

Set in a world where monsters and humans co-exist, Monster Hunt tells the story of Wuba, a monster born to be king. Wuba becomes the central figure in stopping an all-out monster civil war. The movie is produced by Hong Kong's Edko Films, cost $40 million to make, and features a stellar cast of Hong Kong and Chinese actors, including Bai Baihe, Jiang Wu, Eric Tsang, Elaine Jin, Tang Wei and Sandra Ng.

According to Entgroup, audiences in so-called "first tier" cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, accounted for 24 percent of Transformers: Age of Extinction's audiences, but for Monster Hunt, the audiences in the main cities only made up 19.1 percent.

Monster Hunt proved more popular in second- and third-tier cities, which include regional capitals, and one of the big drivers of the movie's success has been the youth market in smaller cities. Recent promotional efforts have also focused on smaller cities.

"Hollywood blockbusters can't be marketed well here because the people don’t know the Hollywood stars, and they won't bother to listen to English and watch the subtitles," said Li Linhang, CEO of Monster Hunt's marketing company, Shengmeng Longyuan.

"Artistic films also have very small market here because the town people want to see the colorful world outside instead of suffering and difficulties," said Li.

On Monster Hunt, marketing was very local, with press conferences in smaller cities like Wuhan and Chengdu, as well as changing the language of marketing material into local dialect in Sichuan and other areas to appeal to regional audiences.

In second place was Pancake Man (Jian Bing Man), which added $12.92 million for a gross of $177.29 million after 24 days on release. The superhero parody film features Jean-Claude Van Damme as a villain and and stars Da Peng, who also wrote and directed.

Pancake Man had 106,093 showings, while admissions were 2.42 million. It is the second Chinese movie to pass the one billion yuan ($165 million) threshold this year, and at a cost of just $2.9 million is one of the most profitable Chinese films ever.

Still in third place was the animated film Monkey King: Hero Is Back, which added $11.55 million for a 31-day gross of $137.56 million. The latest take on the Monkey King legend had 2.12 million admissions.

Behind that in fourth place was Dante Lam's sports comedy To the Fore, starring Eddie Peng, Shawn Dou, Choi Su-won and Wang Luodan, which took a respectable $11.26 million in its opening four days with 112,751 showings and 2.13 million admissions.

The romantic action comedy Wild City was in fifth place, adding $7.57 million for a gross of $21.8 million after 11 days from 93,664 showings.

The animated comedy Kwai Boo was behind that, taking $5.84 million in its opening four days with 57,222 showings and 1.073 million admissions.

In seventh place, the period drama Lady of the Dynasty took $5.73 million in its first full week for a cume of $20.64 million after 11 days.

In eighth place came the animation Mr. Black: Green Star, which took $5.18 million in its opening three days for a gross of $6.17 million once pre-sales are factored in.

Behind that was Time to Love, which took $3.43 million in its opening weekend, and rounding out the top 10 was John Woo's epic 3D second part to The Crossing, which added $2.64 million for a cume of $7.66 million in its first full week, with 45,760 showings and 437,840 admissions.