'Journey to the West' Passes $160 Million at Chinese Box Office

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons 2013 H

Stephen Chow Sing-chi’s fantastical comedy becomes the second Chinese film in as many months to hit 10-digit local earnings at home, with its quest to top "Avatar's" record takings of 1.38 billion yuan possibly hindered by the release of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

HONG KONG – Another month, another record-breaker. Less than two months after Lost in Thailand became the first Chinese production to take more than 1 billion yuan ($160.3 million) at the local box-office, Stephen Chow Sing-chi’s Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons  did the same – and in fewer days than the previous record-holder.

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According to figures released on the state-backed China Film News blog, Journey to the West generated 330 million yuan ($52.9 million) from Feb. 18-24, bringing its total box-office earnings to 983 million yuan ($157.6 million) up until Sunday. Averaging daily takings of 65.5 million yuan, the film would easily have crossed the 1 billion yuan threshold on Monday, thus sealing its standing as the second highest-grossing local production ever in mainland China.

With Chow still traveling around the country to promote the film, Journey is expected to continue its challenge to beat the local-production record set by Lost in Thailand last month (1.26 billion yuan/$202 million) and then the all-time Chinese box-office mark of James Cameron’s Avatar (1.38 billion yuan/$221.2 million, from Jan./Feb. 2010). By earning 122 million yuan ($19.6 million) on Feb. 14, Journey has already broken the single-day ticket-sales record set by Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 2011 (116 million yuan/$18.6 million).

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Whether Chow's film could fulfill that quest hinges on its ability to withstand the challenge of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which has performed remarkably since its Feb. 22 opening, taking in 115 million yuan ($18.4 million) in just three days. There’s also Jean Valjean and Fantine to take care of, with Les Miserables – the profile of which has certainly risen again with Anne Hathaway’s Oscar win and the ensemble performance at the awards ceremony on Sunday – opening in the country on Feb. 28.

Where Bilbo Baggins has thrived, Tom Cruise has withered, however. Up until Feb. 24, Jack Reacher has just taken 80 million yuan ($12.8 million) – a situation which would possibly leave its Chinese total earnings trailing that of Cloud Atlas, which has now accumulated 170 million yuan ($27.3 million) in the territory.