China Box Office: Morgan Freeman Fandom Lifts 'London Has Fallen' to $24.5M
'Zootopia,' meanwhile, climbed past 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' to become Disney's biggest movie ever in the booming Chinese film market.
Buoyed by Chinese filmgoers' abiding love for Morgan Freeman, Millennium Pictures' London Has Fallen handily won the weekend at China's ever-expanding box office.
The action-thriller, a sequel to Antoine Fuqua's 2013 film Olympus Has Fallen, grossed $24.5 million, easily eclipsing its $21.6 million North American debut over a month ago.
Freeman has been a fan favorite in China since 1994's Shawshank Redemption. The film was never released theatrically in the country, but it was widely seen — and came to be adored — thanks to rampant movie piracy over the ensuing years. It is still the all-time highest-rated film on China's leading reviews site, Douban, with a sky-high score of 9.6/10.
Whether China's total for London Has Fallen, which also co-stars Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart, can top North America's final gross — $60.7 million — will depend on how well it fares in its second weekend against Disney's The Jungle Book, which early buzz suggests will make a strong debut.
Olympus Has Fallen, also starring Freeman, Butler and Eckhart, was brought into China as a buy-out film back in 2013, opening a full nine months after its North American release but still managing to pull in $5.8 million from a relatively slight screen share.
Chinese dark comedy Chongqing Hot Pot, starring A-listers Bhai Baihe (Monster Hunt) and Chen Kun (Mojin: The Lost Legend), landed at No. 2 for the second weekend running, earning $11.4 million from Friday to Sunday for a 10-day cumulative gross of $48.2 million, according to Beijing-based box-office monitor Ent Group.
Runaway smash hit Zootopia, meanwhile, pushed past Avengers: Age of Ulton on Friday to become Disney's biggest film ever in China. Closing out its fifth weekend in Chinese cinemas, the animated pic came in third place, adding $6.5 million for a whopping 38-day cume of 1.465 billion Chinese yuan ($232.3 million), compared to Age of Ultron's 1.464 billion yuan haul last summer (local currency is used for China's box-office records, due to exchange rate fluctuations). Zootopia is both the biggest animated movie ever in China and the second-largest movie overall for 2016 so far, behind only Stephen Chow's comedy-fantasy The Mermaid, which grossed an historic $523 million following its release in February.
Last weekend's winner, The Bodyguard, directed by and starring Hong Kong's Sammo Hung, slipped to fourth place with $6.4 million, while Warner Bros.' Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice eroded another 75 percent-plus, grossing just $2.8 million for fourth place. Its China total after 17 days is $94 million, far below most pre-release estimates.
Further down the charts, multi-Oscar winner The Revenant continued to hang around, adding $520,000 for an improbable $57.9 million haul after three weekends.
Spring is shaping up to be a very healthy season for Disney in China. Following the country's enthusiastic reception of Zootopia and The Jungle Book, Marvel-Disney's Captain America: Civil War will open in China day-and-date with the U.S. on Friday, May 6, it was confirmed over the weekend.