China Box Office: ‘Bovary’ Defies Controversy for $29.5 Million Weekend

Patrick Frater
Variety

I am not Madame Bovary,” director Feng Xiaogang’s satirical drama about China’s justice system, dominated the Chinese box office in its opening weekend. It managed that despite – or because – of a controversy over access to screens.

The film, which has done the round of international festivals and is experimental in format, scored $29.5 million in its opening three days, according to data from Ent Group. It toppled “Doctor Strange” which scored $11.0 million in its third week and now has a cumulative total of $102 million after 17 days.

On its Friday release day Feng used his social media accounts to blast Wanda Cinema Line for not programming the film in as many screens as he felt the film justified. That sparked a row which played out online. It underlined the rivalry and animosity between the Wanda group and Huayi Brothers Media, one of China’s largest film studios and a producer on the “Bovary.”

Whether or not Wanda’s programming pattern dented the film’s performance or hurt its own revenues is unclear. “Bovary” enjoyed the largest screen count nationwide on all three days of release and achieved the highest per screen average of any mainstream release.

The film’s release had previously been pushed back from a late September slot, with some commentators assuming that it had not received censorship approval. Sources close to the film told Variety as early mid-September that it had been cleared for release. A more likely explanation is the avoidance of clashes with other Chinese film releases.

“Warrior’s Gate,” the only new Chinese film to release against “Bovary” this weekend struggled. Despite its French-Chinese pedigree with Luc Besson producing and the presence of stars Mark Chao, N Ni and Dave Bautista, it managed only $2.45 million for fifth place.

Ahead of it was Hollywood disaster picture “Deepwater Horizon” which opened on Tuesday and scored $3.72 million over the weekend, for a six day score of $7.86 million, and the second weekend for “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” After 10 days in theaters, “Billy Lynn” has managed $19.8 million.

Tickets at two of co-producer Bona Film Group’s own theaters were advertised as high as $115 (RMB800) for the full 120 frames per second, 4K, 3D experience that Lee intended – though discounts likely halved that price for many patrons.

Behind these were Japanese animation “One Piece Film Gold” added $2.07 million in its second week, and European animation “The New Adventures of Aladdin” which opened with $1.90 million in three days.

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