China Box Office: Stephen Chow's 'Mermaid' Nears $200M at Record Pace

Mermaid Stephen Chow - H

Two other Chinese blockbusters — 'The Man From Macau 3' and 'The Monkey King 2' — have also done huge business over the Lunar New Year holiday.

Stephen Chow's latest hit comedy, Mermaid, has become the must-see movie of China's New Year holiday.

After just five days in cinemas, the literal fish-out-of-water rom-com has grossed a huge $187.3 million — the largest five-day start ever in China.

With two days still remaining in the "Golden Week" festive period — plus Valentine's Day on Sunday, a major movie date occasion  — the film looks well positioned to make a run at Monster Hunt's $391 million all-time China record set last summer. Mermaid's $40.7 million opening on Monday already nabbed the crown for biggest single-day gross.

Fusing Chow's ribald brand of humor with a love story and an environmentalist message, Mermaid has won a warm reception from Chinese critics and mainstream moviegoers alike. The fantasy comedy centers on a billionaire playboy (Deng Chao) who buys a dolphin preserve with an intention to illegally develop it. A beautiful mermaid (firsttimer Jelly Lin) hatches a scheme to protect her aquatic brethren by seducing and assassinating the tycoon — but her plans become complicated after she falls in love with him.

Mermaid was produced by Beijing Enlight Pictures and China Film Group.

Mermaid's commanding performance is all the more impressive given that two other Chinese franchise sequels have been doing strong business in parallel. Chow Yun Fat's comedy caper The Man From Macau 3 has grossed $91.9 during the same period, while The Monkey King 2 starring Aaron Kwok has pulled in $87 million of its own.

DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda 3 has been drowned out by Mermaid and its blockbuster companions. On Friday, KFP3 earned only $3.5 million compared to Mermaid's $35.7 million haul. After 15 days in China, the DWA's threequel earned $119.6 million. 

The Lunar New Year holiday drove China's box office to outperform the U.S. theatrical market in February 2015; a feat it expects to repeat by an even wider margin in February 2016.