Huayi Brothers’ Painted Skin: The Resurrection, directed by Wuershan, has become the highest-grossing Chinese-language film ever in mainland China with a box office haul of $107.86m (RMB686m).

Released on June 28, the film has overtaken Jiang Wen’s Let the Bullets Fly ($105.97m)and Feng Xiaogang’s Aftershock ($105.82m). It has also become the fourth highest-grossing film ever in China overall behind Avatar, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Titanic 3D.

The fantasy period drama, loosely based on 19th century Chinese author Pu Songling’s Strange Tales Of Liaozhai, is produced by Chen Kuo-fu and stars Vicky Zhao Wei, Zhou Xun, Chen Kun, Mini Yang and William Feng. It became the first Chinese film to break the RMB300m ($47.17m) mark in four days. 

The release date of Painted Skin: The Resurrection coincides with the so-called “national film protection month”, a blackout period for Hollywood blockbusters in China, which ran from June 28 to July 28.

It is understood that Sony Pictures’ The Amazing Spider-Man, released worldwide on the weekend of June 29, was pushed back to an August 30 release slot in China because of the blackout.

Painted Skin: The Resurrection received an entirely 3D release in mainland China, which contributed to the high box office, as 3D ticket prices are 50-100% higher than tickets for 2D films. However, the film was released in both 2D and 3D versions in Hong Kong.

Local industry figures have started to criticise the way in which the film was protected as well as its 3D-only release. Wu Hehu, general manager of Shanghai United Cinema Circuit, told local press that he did “not think it’s good for the market to let only one film succeed”.  

Ning Caishen, a well-known scriptwriter, openly criticised the film’s 3D version on microblogging site, Weibo, saying the 3D version of Painted Skin 2 is “fake 3D” designed to gain higher box office..

Despite the criticism, the success of Painted Skin 2’s 3D release appears to have sparked a trend. Huayi Brothers announced that its upcoming martial arts plus steam-punk action drama Tai Chi 0 will be released on September 29 in both 2D and 3D versions. 

Earlier this week, China Film Group also announced that action film Switch, starring Andy Lau and Lin Chiling, will also have a 3D release and that its release date has been postponed to November in order to produce a 3D version.