'Founding' eyes 'Transformers' record

China Film Group expects robots' record to fall in 10 days

HONG KONG -- China's star-studded propaganda blockbuster that marks 60 years of communist rule is on track to match the country's boxoffice record set by the Hollywood film "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" in July, a senior movie executive said Monday.

"The Founding of a Republic" has so far made nearly 330 million yuan ($48 million) as of Sunday since it was released on Sept. 16, China Film Group Corp. assistant president Zhao Haicheng told The Associated Press.

The "Transformers" sequel earned 400 million yuan ($59 million) this year, breaking the 11-year record of 360 million yuan set by "Titanic" in 1998.

Zhao said he expected the Chinese movie to match that record in about 10 days.

In Hong Kong for the opening reception for a Chinese film festival, Zhao said state-run China Film Group issued about 1,400 copies of the film. China had nearly 4,100 screens at the end of 2008.

"It will be among our most profitable films," Zhao said.

Unlike other propaganda films, "The Founding of a Republic" generated tremendous excitement in China because it was stacked with some of Chinese film's biggest stars.

While the lead actors are not well-known in the West, action stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li, comedian Stephen Chow of "Kung Fu Hustle" fame and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" star Zhang Ziyi had bit roles.

Zhao said China Film Group invested just over 110 million yuan ($16 million) in movie productions in 2008 and its 2009 investment is also set to exceed 100 million yuan ($15 million).

China's boxoffice is booming, although still comparatively small compared to the U.S. market. Government statistics show that revenues surged from 920 million yuan in 2003 to 4.3 billion yuan ($630 million) in 2008 - compared to $9.8 billion in the U.S. last year.