'Skyfall' Crosses 100 Million Yuan Mark in China

Clarence Tsui
The Hollywood Reporter
'Skyfall,' Sam Mendes Win Empire Awards in U.K

HONG KONG – Skyfall might be unspooling in China short of a scene showing the shooting of a Chinese doorman, but the latest James Bond movie is making a killing in Chinese cinemas, with the film’s box office takings already reaching nine-digit figures.

By the end of Jan. 24, Sam Mendes’ Bond film – which premiered in Beijing and Shanghai two weeks ago and opened across China on Jan. 21 – has already taken 112 million yuan (US$18 million), according to figures from Dianyingpiaofangba (“Movie Box Office Bulletin Board”), one of the most authoritative sources of ticket sales figures in the Chinese blogosphere.

At such speed, Skyfall will comfortably overcome the earnings of Quantum of Solace (which took 143 million yuan/US$23 million in 2008) to become the highest-grossing Bond film to be released in China. Casino Royale, the first of the three Daniel Craig-starring entries, took 92 million yuan (US$14.8 million). Skyfall has already taken US$1.04 billion in ticket sales worldwide, and China will be the film’s last major market to open in.

PHOTOS: 10 Hollywood Films Changed for International Release

Skyfall is at present enjoying a comparatively Hollywood-free run at Chinese cinemas, with the Amanda Seyfried thriller Gone making its bow Jan. 25 and Cloud Atlas opening Jan. 31. But neither of these films are expected to give Bond a run for its money – instead, it was two domestic productions which will take a dent off Skyfall’s earnings in the next week.

Bring Happiness Home, a spin-off of the popular TV variety show Happy Home, has proved to be a surprise hit, having already taken 110 million yuan (US$17.6 million) since its release on Jan. 15. Meanwhile, the fifth installment of the homespun animation film franchise, Pleasant Goat and the Big Big Wolf, began its run on Jan. 24 with takings of 15 million yuan (US$2.4 million) – dropped sharply from the 19-million-yuan (US$3.1 million) opening-day takings of its previous entry, released at around the same time last year.

Just like the success of Lost in Thailand – the record-breaking comedy, which ends its run on Jan. 28 and has already taken 1.26 billion yuan (US$202.4 million) – both Happiness and Pleasant Goat are thriving as audiences crave for some on-screen comedy during the festive season (the traditional Lunar New Year holidays will begin in earnest in a fortnight’s time).

On Jan. 24, Skyfall took up 38.2 per cent of all screenings in China, followed by Pleasant Goat (23.8 per cent), Happiness (13.1 per cent), and Wong Kar-wai’s Berlinale-opener The Grandmaster (10 per cent, with total accumulated takings expected to top 300 million yuan this weekend).

PHOTOS: Fifty Years Of James Bond

Strong word-of-mouth reviews online have driven Skyfall’s strong showing, despite some criticism in the Chinese blogosphere about a scene – of a French assassin shooting a Chinese security guard on his way to completing a hit – being removed and on-screen mentions of prostitution and state-sponsored torture obscured in Chinese subtitles.

The next raft of Hollywood blockbusters will arrive in Chinese cinemas in mid-February, with Jack Reacher bowing  Feb .16, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Feb. 22 and Les Miserables on Feb. 28. The breakout hit of the so-called “golden week” during the Lunar New Year holidays, however, will probably be Stephen Chow Sing-chi’s Feb. 10-opening comedy JTTW, an abbreviated form of the Chinese novel – Journey to the West – on which it is based.