UPDATE, THURSDAY AM PT: The official New Year numbers are in from Chinese watchdog SAPPRFT with total box office for the February 19-24 period in the Middle Kingdom registering a record 1.73B yuan ($276.4M). The tally for last year’s holiday was 1.39B yuan. According to China Daily, SAPPRFT also said the first day of the Lunar New Year set a record for one-day ticket sales in China at over 360M yuan ($48.9M). Dragon Blade (trailer above) led the week with 451M yuan ($72M).
PREVIOUS, TUESDAY AM PT: The start of the Lunar New Year in China rocked up strong business as seven new films were released and two holdovers continued to perform in what has been billed as the most competitive season ever. Historical drama Dragon Blade, starring Jackie Chan, Adrien Brody and John Cusack, was the top draw with $54.8M over the four-day frame that began on Thursday, February 19. That was followed by Chow Yun-fat gambling action-comedy The Man From Macau II with $43M and fantasy pic Zhong Kui: Snow Girl And The Dark Crystal with about $31M, according to local estimates.
That was good for a total of just under $129M across just those three. In comparison, the top 3 movies over the 2014 New Year opening frame last year were The Monkey King ($50.9M), Dad, Where Are We Going? ($40.6M) and The Man From Macau ($11.6M); a total of just over $103M.
Last year saw only four new releases make the Top 10 on opening weekend — this year’s list has seven, with two holdovers in romancer Somewhere Only We Know ($44.3M cume) and the animated Boonie Bears: Mystical Winter ($44M cume). The sole Hollywood movie in the group is The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 which is estimated by research firm Ent Group to have amassed $36M, taking it well past the first two franchise installments.
With roughly 24K movie screens now in China (up from 2013’s final count of about 18K), the New Year frame — aka Spring Festival — has become increasingly lucrative. Akin to our Thanksgiving, folks travel home for the holiday, boosting sales in 2nd and 3rd tier cities.
It’s not only good for China, though. The festive season extends to other Asian markets, notably Hong Kong and Korea. According to FilmBizAsia, total box office in Hong Kong from Wednesday to Saturday was $8M, an increase of 21.4% from last year. The top title was Japanese 3D animation Stand By Me Doraemon with about $3M in takings.
In Korea, period adventure comedy Detective K: Secret Of The Lost Island added $12.5M in its 2nd frame to take the cume to $23M, per Rentrak. Fox’s Kingsman: The Secret Service saw an incredible 86% jump over its opening weekend with an $8.86M take. The cume there is now $17.8M, making Korea the film’s 2nd best offshore market behind the UK. It’s also become the top R-rated import ever, bigger than all Bond and Bourne titles.
After releasing originally on December 17, local drama Ode To My Father was back on the charts with $4.3M at the weekend. The Yoon Je-hyoon-directed pic now has a cume of $98.7M and has overtaken Avatar in terms of ticket sales with 14.1M. Last year’s Roaring Currents is still tops with 17.6M in admissions and $122M in box office. Ode To My Father is a generational epic about one man’s personal sacrifices (see trailer below).
The Lunar New Year weekend in Korea was nevertheless down from 2014, thanks to the overperformance last year of Disney’s Frozen and local release Miss Granny. However, taking that year out of the equation, the Korean Film Council says that admissions have been rising by about 50K per annum during the holiday.
Back in China, the other major openers were Jean-Jacques Annaud’s expansive drama Wolf Totem with a $32.3M cume after four days; Dad, Where Are We Going? 2 with $20.3M; Triumph In The Skies at $12.7M; and Emperor’s Holidays at $8.9M.
The latter three films have something in common in that they are each adapted from popular TV series. Triumph In The Skies is based on the Hong Kong drama about a group of pilots and cabin crew. Both Dad, Where Are We Going? 2 and Emperor’s Holidays are based on the same TV show. The reality Dad, Where Are We Going ? series spawned a first feature last year which went on to earn about $112M. That was a direct reality transfer to the big screen as is this year’s sequel which looks to have underperformed. Emperor’s Holiday is also based on the series, but is a dramatized take that employs the cast of the show’s first season. For trailers of all the major Chinese releases click here.