Kong: Skull Island roared into the Middle Kingdom over the weekend, earning a muscular $72 million, according to studio figures.
The big bow gives the Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment film claim to Hollywood's second-largest opening in China this year, behind only Resident Evil's surprising $94 million February debut.
Opening on 18,000 screens, Kong easily cast Disney's Beauty and the Beast aside. BATB added $12.4 million in its sophomore outing, bringing its two-frame total to $73.4 million, according to Beijing box-office tracker Ent Group.
Kong, directed by Jordan Vogt Roberts and starring Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson, also laid claim to China's all-time biggest March launch in IMAX, with $6.5 million from 387 giant-format screens. By midweek, Kong should march past Godzilla - Warner Bros.' and Legendary's last hit monster flick together - which grossed about $77.6 million in China in 2014.
Kong's greatest test will be endurance. For over a year, Hollywood tentpoles have tended to open huge and crash hard in China. But the monster movie reboot, which was co-financed by Chinese internet giant Tencent and has local marketing support from Legendary parent Dalian Wanda Group, has some good timing on its side. Kong's second weekend will coincide with China's three-day Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival, a popular moviegoing holiday. The U.S. blockbuster won't have any Hollywood competition in frame two, but it will be interesting to see how it fares against Perfect World Pictures' local action-thriller Extraordinary Mission, directed by Alan Mak and written by Felix Ma (the duo behind Hong Kong classic Infernal Affairs), and Beijing Enlight's The Devotion of Suspect X, an adaptation of a best-selling Japanese mystery novel by Keigo Higashino.
The rest of April is shaping up to be a busy season for studio releases in China. Paramount's Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson, will open April 7, followed by Universal's The Fate of the Furious on April 14 and Sony's Smurfs: The Lost Village on April 21.
Sources tell THR that Lionsgates' Power Rangers also has been cleared for an April release, and state distributor China Film Group is currently working on dating.