Chinese moviegoers are singing La La Land's praises.
Damien Chazelle's modern musical, which is nominated for a record-tying 14 Oscars, opened in the Middle Kingdom on Valentine's Day Tuesday to a healthy $12.5 million. That brings the film's worldwide total to a rousing $307 million and ahead of Chicago ($306.8 million).
Traditionally, musicals have been viewed as a tricky sell in China, where filmgoers are thought to be somewhat put off by sudden, emotive bursts into song. But local marketing traded on the film's Oscars buzz and romantic elements - and getting the official green light from China's film regulators to open on Valentine's Day was particularly key.
In recent years, V-Day has emerged as a major moviegoing date night, as young Chinese twosomes head to cinemas by the millions. La La Land's title was translated into Chinese as 爱乐之城, or Aiyue Zhicheng, roughly meaning "City for Music Lovers."
China Film Co. released the movie, with Shanghai-based Baian Film and Beijing's Joy Pictures handling local marketing. Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling visited Beijing in late January to promote the movie. La La Land is Gosling's first film released in China, but co-star Emma Stone is a familiar face there, thanks to the Amazing Spider-Man franchise.
Even more impressive than La La Land's date-night debut, Vin Diesel's xXx: The Return of Xander Cage pulled in a massive $22.7 million on the holiday. After just five days on Chinese screens, the extreme sports thriller has earned $93.5 million and should cross the $100 million mark tomorrow.
Xander Cage co-stars Donnie Yen and Kris Wu, two of greater China's biggest celebrities. The film is also the first Paramount release since the studio signed a $1 billion slate-financing deal with China's Shanghai Film Group and Huahua Media, which partnered on the local marketing campaign.
Feb. 14, 10:45 a.m. Updated with revised grosses.
Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.