'Man of Tai Chi' Loses Fight for China Box-Office Crown

Cannes Exclusive Keanu Reeves Man of Tai Chi H 2013

Keanu Reeves’ state-backed, much-hyped action thriller fails to take off during opening weekend, with its share of screenings dropping day by day, falling to fifth on Sunday.

HONG KONG – It seems Keanu Reeves’ all-out promotional push for his directorial debut across China has not achieved the result he and his financiers might have wanted, with statistics showing Man of Tai Chi earning less at the box office than other new releases and even less than a homegrown action comedy in the third week of its run.

After opening on Friday, Man of Tai Chi has taken $2.9 million (177.9 million yuan) across China up to and including Sunday, according to figures released by entertainment industry analysts Entgroup on Monday. It’s a performance largely put into the shade by Johnnie To’s Blind Detective, which has taken $137.4 million (843.5 million yuan) from Thursday, when it opened, to Sunday.

Man of Tai Chi was fourth in the daily box office rankings on first two days of its run, behind Blind Detective, local rite-of-passage drama Tiny Times and Man of Steel. On Sunday, however, the film took only $893,000 (5.48 million yuan) and dropped to fifth, overtaken by Badges of Fury, the Jet Li action comedy that has already been out for more than two weeks and that earned $1.16 million (7.1 million yuan).

More devastatingly, Man of Tai Chi has seen its screenings drastically curtailed as its mediocre runs wore on. Entgroup’s figures showed the film took up 17 percent of the total number of shows on mainland China on Friday -- making it the third most screened film in the country behind Tiny Times and Blind Detective -- but its share has since plummeted every day, dropping to 12.3 percent by Sunday.

According to Entgroup’s figures released on Monday evening, Man of Tai Chi’s share of screenings in the country is expected to drop below 10 percent with the opening of the Sylvester Stallone action thriller Bullet to the Head.

The lackluster run will prove to be a major disappointment for Reeves and China Film Group, co-producers of the film with Village Roadshow Pictures and Wanda Group. The state-owned studio had pinned high hopes on the film, which was seen as a step forward for international co-productions in China, as it involved a Hollywood A-lister making a film mostly shot in the country with a Chinese actor (Tiger Chen) in the lead.

Reeves has also dedicated the past few weeks pushing the film across China, putting in appearances in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and a string of other second-tier cities to garner maximum exposure for the film.