China Box Office: 'Nezha' Smashes Animation Records With $91.5M Opening

Nezha STILL - 2019 H
Courtesy of Horgos Coloroll

The feature debut of Chinese filmmaker Yang Yu, 'Nezha' is well positioned to overtake Disney's 'Zootopia' ($236 million) as China's biggest animated film ever.

Beijing Enlight's big-budget 3D animation film Nezha opened to a historic $91.5 million at China's box office over the weekend, smashing a slew of records for an animated film in the country.

Thanks to the huge start, Nezha ranked number two at the global box office for the weekend even though it was screening only in China. Disney's The Lion King was the only film to go bigger, clawing in $142.8 million from dozens of markets around the world.

The feature debut of Chinese director Yang Yu, Nezha's records for an animated feature include biggest opening day ($21.1 million, topping Despicable Me 3), largest single-day total ($33.3 million, beating Disney film Zootopia's $25 million) and the top opening weekend overall ($91.5 million, crushing Despicable Me 3's $64 million start in 2017).

Nezha proved especially powerful on Imax, earning $7.7 million from 618 screens — the biggest animated Imax opening in China and the biggest ever July opening for a film of any category.

The film's social scores are among the best ever for a Chinese film. Its user rating on Maoyan sits at 9.7/10 and its score from Douban's notoriously picky but influential users is 8.7/10. Including its roadshow preview screenings in the two weeks leading up to Friday's release, Nezha's overall total was $102.6 million Sunday.

Given the rave word of mouth and current momentum, Zootopia's all-time China animation record of $235.6 million looks well within sight.

The film is based on a young male character from Chinese mythology, who appears in some of the country's best known works of classic literature, such as The Investiture of the Gods and Journey to the West. In Nezha, Yang has given the story a coming-of-age spin, as the young character fights to overcome prejudice and pursue his dreams — themes that appear to be clicking with China's filmgoing youth.

Last weekend's top title, family comedy drama Looking Up, returned to Earth with $17.3 million in its second frame. The film, about an astronaut who reflects on his father's teachings while marooned in space, has earned $106.7 million after 10 days.

Bona Film Group's hotly anticipated firefighter hero film The Bravest scored $7.8 million in third place thanks to packed limited preview screenings. The film unfurls Aug. 1 and early word of mouth augurs a blazing debut.

Disney's The Lion King added $5.8 million in its third weekend. The global juggernaut appears to be running out of steam in China. It has earned a healthy $114.5 million to date.

Further down in fifth place, Beijing Culture's coming-of-age comedy Dancing Elephant opened to just $4.7 million — a pricey flop for the hit-making studio behind 2019's biggest Chinese film, The Wandering Earth ($700 million).