Huge growth fuels speculation that China may soon expand its quota for revenue-sharing imports to 44 films a year.
Confirming its status as a major box office power, China saw an 82% increase in theatrical revenues over the Chinese New Year holiday period, with 3D fantasy adventure The Monkey King and documentary Dad, Where Are We Going? leading the way.
Box office over the seven-day holiday period (Jan 31-Feb 6) came to a total of $229m (RMB1.39bn) – up 81.7% from the same holiday week in 2013, according to local consultancy Entgroup.
The strong results have fuelled rumours that China may soon increase the quota for revenue-sharing foreign films to 44 titles a year, as local films continue to hold their own against imports. This would follow a widening of the quota to 34 films a year, including 14 3D or enhanced-format titles, which was implemented in early 2012.
The Monkey King, directed by Soi Cheang, was the clear winner over the Chinese New Year holiday period, grossing $100m (RMB612m) over its first seven days. Starring Chow Yun-fat, Aaron Kwok and Donnie Yen, the film is an adaptation of Chinese classic Journey To The West. Stephen Chow’s take on the story, Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons, grossed more than $200m over Chinese New Year in 2013.
Soi Cheang’s version – which entered production long before Chow’s film – is produced by Hong Kong’s Filmko Pictures and Mandarin Films, China Film Group and several mainland investors. Filmko has told local media that the company is considering a sequel.
Meanwhile, Xie Dikui’s Dad, Where Are We Going? was a surprise hit over the holiday, grossing $77m (RMB468) in its first seven days. Based on a Korean reality TV show about the relationship between celebrity dads and their kids, the film has set a record as China’s highest-grossing documentary of all time.
The other Chinese New Year releases trailed far behind the top two films. Wong Jing’s gambling comedy From Vegas To Macau, also starring Chow Yun-fat, came in third with a gross of $30m over the seven days. Huayi Brothers’ romantic comedy Ex-Files, directed by Tian Yusheng, came in fourth with $7m, while Disney animation Frozen, which opened on Feb 5, made $5.7m in its first two days of release.
Box office hits during January in China included Jackie Chan’s Police Story 2013 (released Dec 24, 2013), which has grossed more than $86m; Universal’s Despicable Me 2 (Jan 10), which has grossed $46m despite a delayed release; and Boonie Bears: To The Rescue (Jan 17), which has become China’s all-time highest grossing animation with $35m.
Meanwhile, local movies also dominated over Chinese New Year at the Hong Kong box office, which is usually led by Hollywood films. Comedy Golden Chickensss, starring Sandra Ng, came in top during its first four days (Jan 30-Feb 2) with $1.8m, followed by From Vegas To Macau ($1.48m), The Monkey King ($1.47m) and Hello Babies ($910,000).