Records tumble on 'Aftershock' opening weekend

Feng Xiaogang's quake film sets first day, weekend marks

BEIJING -- Feng Xiaogang's earthquake pic "Aftershock" had anything but a disastrous weekend, setting a record for the top-grossing opening by a Chinese film, the Xinhua News Agency cited the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television as saying Monday.

The film took in 160 million yuan ($23.5 million) in the widest-ever opening in China, with more than 3,500 prints distributed for the July 22 release. The opening beats previous record holder "The Founding of a Republic," China Film Group head Han Sanping's historical epic of the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

"Aftershock" also set an opening day record by taking 36.2 million yuan for its July 22 bow, a single-day high for a Chinese film.

Feng told Xinhua he expected "Aftershock" -- the story of survivors of the Tangshan earthquake, which killed 240,000 people on July 28, 1976 -- to take in 350 to 400 million yuan in the next two weeks, putting it in range of "Republic." That film took in 420 million yuan during its autumn run last year. No Chinese film has ever grossed 500 million yuan. Both films trailed "Avatar," which became China's all-time boxoffice king with a $200 million run earlier this year.

Unlike "Republic," "Aftershock" faces actual competition from Hollywood fare such as "Toy Story 3" and "Knight and Day." "Republic" didn't square off with another foreign title until three weeks into its release.

China's boxoffice reported a total gross of $714 million for the first six months of 2010, not far from the 2009 total of $909 million, and could reach as much as $1.5 billion this year.