China Box Office: 'Transformers: Age of Extinction' Is No. 1 Film of All Time

Transformers: Age of Extinction Still - H 2014
Paramount Pictures

Transformers: Age of Extinction Still - H 2014

UPDATED: The heavy use of Chinese elements in the movie did much to win over fans in the world's second-biggest film market.

After only 10 days in release, Paramount’s Transformers: Age of Extinction has become the top-grossing movie of all time in China with $222.7 million in ticket sales, eclipsing the $221.9 million grossed by James Cameron's Avatar. The 3D tentpole achieved the milestone over the weekend.

Michael Bay’s cyborg action flick, which has a strong Chinese flavor aimed at wooing audiences here, has outperformed its box office performance in North America.

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Transformers: Age of Extinction registered 338,793 screenings with 17.72 million admissions after 10 days to become the top-grossing movie in history at the Chinese box office, not accounting for inflation and currency translation, according to data for the week to June 6 from research group Entgroup.

U.S.-based Jiaflix and the China Movie Channel (CCTV6), with its new media subsidiary M1905, are the production and promotion partners of the film. China Film Group is the sole import company in China.

Worldwide, Age of Extinction earned $575.6 million in its first 12 days in release, including $400.9 million overseas.

The movie’s success was lifted by the inclusion of popular actress Li Bingbing and heartthrob Han Geng, and lashings of product placement for everything from Chinese milk and PCs to Red Bull and authoritarian styles of government.

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The movie premiered in Hong Kong and closed the Shanghai International Film Festival, and it also opened day-and-date with the rest of the world.

In an inspired piece of marketing, leading cast members posted videos in China wishing nearly 10 million high-school students good luck on their college entrance exams.

Transformers: Age of Extinction also used many highly visible sites in Beijing and Hong Kong. In the run-up to the movie’s launch, Chinese partner Pangu, whose dragon-shaped hotel features in the film, threatened to pull out of a partnership over its profile in the film, but a last-minute deal was reached with Paramount.

Another scenic spot near the city of Chongqing was also reportedly considering legal action over not being sufficiently name-checked in the movie, but these incidents have not affected the movie’s success in China.

In second place in China was the domestic romantic comedy The Breakup Guru, which took a solid $40.67 million for a cume of $65.48 million after 10 days.

Directed by Yu Baimei and Deng Chao and starring Deng and Yang Mi, the movie’s performance is all the more impressive given the blanket coverage Transformers: Age of Extinction received in the multiplexes. There were barely any ads for The Breakup Guru in evidence in the theaters, so word-of-mouth clearly helped push the movie.

Still hanging in there in third place was Maleficent, which took another $4.54 million to bring its gross in China to $43.48 million after 17 days.

Chinese-Korean co-production Bunshinsaba 3 was in fourth place, taking $3.59 million in its opening weekend.

Behind that in fourth is a surprise inclusion, American Hustle, which finally got a Chinese release date and took $1.44 million in its opening three days, presumably from the handful of people who have not yet downloaded the pirate version or purchased the fake DVD.

Warner Bros.’ and Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla took another $400,000 to bring its cume to $77.63 million after 24 days, followed by A Noble Spirit, which took another $380,000 for a cume of $750,000.

In eighth place was Grace of Monaco, which was launched by Nicole Kidman at the Shanghai International Film Festival. It took another $250,000 to bring its total to $4.08 million after 17 days. Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow took another $180,000 to bring its cume to $65.66 million after 31 days.

In 10th place was a movie about Tibet called Phurbu and Tenzin.

Twitter: @cliffordcoonan