With China in the throes of an unofficial blackout period, when studio movies sit on the sidelines, multiplexes have been frontloaded with homegrown pics over the past month. In the past five frames, a Chinese film has landed in the Top 10 at the international box office with each performing north of $50M during their runs — in some cases up to near $100M. But it was the offerings out this past session that really ratcheted up the proceedings as family fantasy adventure Monster Hunt and comedy Pancake Man (with Jean-Claude Van Damme cameo to boot!) reached new box office milestones for local openers.
This past month should go a long way to helping China ensure its coveted 50%+ annual market share. It will also aid the overall box office to continue to skyrocket, with help from already-released blockbusters Furious 7 ($391M), Avengers: Age Of Ultron ($235.5M) and Jurassic World ($229M) — and with Hollywood movies poised to return sometime in mid-to-late August. Industry consultant and Forbes contributor Rob Cain estimates that cumulative box office revenue for 2015 is 45% higher year-on-year versus 2014, and is on pace for a $6.9B final gross. Last year’s total was $4.8B.
Monster Hunt (see trailer above), a monster smash that made $109M in its first four days, opened last Thursday scoring the biggest first day and biggest single-day gross ever for a local title with $27.5M, including previews and midnight shows (for comparison’s sake, F7 made $68.6M on its first day in April). The film also set a new IMAX record for a locally-produced movie with $8.7M on 216 screens. That bested — and doubled — the previous record held by The Monkey King, and also includes a single-day record for a local prod with $2.7M on Saturday.
Helmed by Raman Hui, a veteran of DreamWorks films including the Shrek franchise whose third installment he co-directed, it almost didn’t make it to movie houses. A 2014 ban on actors involved in drug arrests meant that co-star Ko Kai’s scenes had to be reshot, replacing him with Jing Boran. The cost of doing so has been pegged at at least $10M, notes Cain. The ban was later lifted, but changes had already been made.
The story that’s charming Chinese audiences sees a man give birth to a monster king who resembles a “white radish.” He must go on to protect the little fellow from evil-doers. Veteran producer Bill Kong’s Edko Films is behind the movie which does not yet have a U.S. release.
Meanwhile, Pancake Man (trailer below), from writer/director (and star) Dong Chengpeng, is due to go out Stateside on Friday via Asia Releasing. The superhero spoof sees a disgraced TV personality, Da Peng, making a movie on the cheap about an alien who comes to Earth and has various adventures as a superhero. A young man from a poor family who makes his living selling jianbing pancakes is brainwashed into being the alien’s sidekick. Hijinks ensue as Da Peng tries to get the film made with cameos from the likes of Hong Kong actress Sandra Ng, Hong King filmmaker Eric Tsang and Van Damme.
The film made $70.5M over its three day opening, the 2nd best start for a local title ever. Cain suggests that by next weekend, Pancake Man will break the record for highest grossing debut feature which Vicki Zhao previously set with So Young in 2013.
On deck next week is Detective Gui, a romantic comedy about a female sleuthing prodigy from Hong Kong director Oxide Pang Chun. Otherwise, Monster Hunt and Pancake Man are expected to continue strong runs before Hollywood bursts back through the gates.
No official word yet on what will be the first studio movie to re-enter, but it should be confirmed soon. Although no dates are set, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Terminator: Genisys, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Minions or Inside Out potentially among the early crop.