'Skyfall' Crosses 100 Million Yuan Mark in China


Footage of a Chinese character dying, and references to prostitution and torture were edited out of the Chinese release of the 2012 James Bond film. One scene completely cut included a hitman (Ola Rapace) killing a Chinese security guard. In another, Bond (Daniel Craig) questions a woman (Berenice Marlohe) about her tattoo, which indicates she had been forced into prostitution as a child. The audio was kept in, but the subtitles instead read she was being extorted by the mob. When Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva tells Bond about being captured in Hong Kong and then tortured, the subtitles did not tell the whole tale.

Earnings for the latest James Bond movie reach nine figures within four days of release, leaving its closest competitors –- a TV spin-off comedy and a local animated film -– in its wake.

HONG KONG -- Skyfall might be unspooling in China short of a scene showing the shooting of a Chinese doorman, but the latest James Bond movie is making a killing in Chinese cinemas, with the film’s box office takings already reaching nine figures.

As of Tuesday, Sam Mendes’ Bond film -- which premiered in Beijing and Shanghai two weeks ago and opened across China on on Jan. 21 -- has already brought in 112 million yuan (US$18 million), according to figures from Dianyingpiaofangba (“Movie Box Office Bulletin Board”), one of the most authoritative sources of ticket sales figures in the Chinese blogosphere.

At such speed, Skyfall will comfortably overcome the earnings of Quantum of Solace (which took in 143 million yuan/US$23 million in 2008) to become the highest-grossing Bond film released in China. Casino Royale, the first of the three Daniel Craig-starring entries, took 92 million yuan (US$14.8 million). Skyfall has already taken in US$1.04 billion in ticket sales worldwide, and China was the film’s last major market to open in.

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Skyfall is enjoying a comparatively Hollywood-free run at Chinese cinemas, with the Amanda Seyfried thriller Gone making its bow Jan. 25 and Cloud Atlas opening Jan. 31. But neither of these films are expected to give Bond a run for its money -- instead, it's been two domestic productions that have dented off Skyfall’s earnings in the next week.

Bring Happiness Home, a spin-off of the popular TV variety show Happy Home, has proved to be a surprise hit, having already brought in 110 million yuan (US$17.6 million) since its release on Jan. 15. Meanwhile, the fifth installment of the homespun animation film franchise, Pleasant Goat and the Big Big Wolf, began its run on Tuesday with takings of 15 million yuan (US$2.4 million) – dropping sharply from the 19 million yuan (US$3.1 million) opening-day score of its previous entry, released around the same time last year.

Just like the success of Lost in Thailand -- the record-breaking comedy, which ends its run on Jan. 28 and has already scored 1.26 billion yuan (US$202.4 million) -- both Happiness and Pleasant Goat are thriving as audiences crave for some on-screen comedy during the festive season (the traditional Lunar New Year holidays will begin in earnest in two weeks).

On Jan. 24, Skyfall took up 38.2 percent of all screenings in China, followed by Pleasant Goat (23.8 percent), Happiness (13.1 percent), and Wong Kar-wai’s Berlinale-opener The Grandmaster (10 percent, with total accumulated earnings expected to top 300 million yuan this weekend).

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Strong word-of-mouth reviews online have driven Skyfall’s strong showing, despite some criticism in the Chinese blogosphere about a scene – of a French assassin shooting a Chinese security guard on his way to completing a hit – being removed and on-screen mentions of prostitution and state-sponsored torture obscured in Chinese subtitles.

The next raft of Hollywood blockbusters will arrive in Chinese cinemas in mid-February, with Jack Reacher bowing  Feb .16, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Feb. 22 and Les Miserables on Feb. 28. The breakout hit of the so-called “golden week” during the Lunar New Year holidays, however, will probably be Stephen Chow Sing-chi’s Feb. 10-opening comedy JTTW, an abbreviated form of the Chinese novel – Journey to the West – on which it is based.