HONG KONG – If proof is needed about China’s emergence as the world’s second-biggest filmgoing country, the box office figures for the past week would provide dizzying reading – as an international blockbuster and a domestic production combined to create a record-shattering week at the tills.
After what has been a mighty (and, in some online quarters, ugly) scrap between a much-hyped superhero flick (Iron Man 3) and a similarly hyped, sepia-tinged look at college life and love in the 1990s (So Young, the directorial debut of A-list actress Vicki Zhao Wei), Chinese cineplexes have reported record weekly takings of $148.6 million (916.5 million yuan), according to figures released on the state-backed China Film News microblog that cover the period from last Monday through Sunday.
In pole position was Iron Man 3, which took $64.3 million (396 million yuan). The Robert Downey Jr. starrer made up on its shorter run – it was only released May 1, the end of the three-day May Day break – with higher tickets prices (it was available on 3D and 3D Imax) than So Young, which had run for a full week (including a clear run during the holidays). The drama took another $53.6 million (330 million yuan) this week, and now totals $77.3 million (476 million) since its April 26 opening.
The two films had taken up nearly 79 percent of the box office during the past week. Ranked third and fourth are The Croods, which added another $19.5 million (120 million yuan, now totaling $36.7 million/226 million yuan), and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which took $6.8 million (42 million yuan) and boasts of a final tally of $54.2 million (334 million yuan).
Posing a challenge to Iron Man 3 and So Young will be the end-of-week releases of Oblivion and Django Unchained. Tom Cruise will be flying in to attend a Thursday screening in Beijing of the former before its opening the next day, while it will be interesting to note the performance of Quentin Tarantino’s production May 12, with many of his fans reporting online as having seen the film on illegal downloads or discs after it was taken off screens in the morning of its original release day of April 10.
Beyond the blockbusters, however, a minor hit could come in the shape of Transcendence, a 3D musical documentary revolving around a concert of Cui Jian, one of China’s most revered independent musical icons well-known for his politically charged songs.