China’s media authority, SAPPRFT, has been relatively quiet during the past blackout month at the box office, but piped up over the weekend to tout the monster returns of smash hit Monster Hunt. The CGI/live-action fantasy adventure film has led the international box office for two frames in a row, beating out comers like Minions and Ant-Man (which are yet to travel to China), and now tallying more than 1.27B yuan ($205M) through Sunday. Those are the official figures that come during the unofficial session where Hollywood movies are blocked from release (local media last week referred to it as the “mid-summer domestic film protection period”). There is something to crow about. Monster Hunt, helmed by Shrek franchise veteran Raman Hui, is now the most commercially successful Chinese film of all time.
Rentrak puts its take higher, at $211M, but that covers the Middle Kingdom and four smaller markets. Nevertheless, this is a milestone for a Chinese film, and beats previous record holders Lost In Thailand (almost a Hail-Mary that came in at the end of 2012 to boost local market share which ultimately fell below the 50% mark), and Stephen Chow’s 2013 adventure comedy Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons. Lost In Thailand helmer Xu Zheng reportedly posted on his Sina Weibo microblog this weekend, “Records are set to be broken. Go ahead, Chinese movies.” A Monster Hunt sequel is said to be already in the works.
Other titles working well during the blackout have included Pancake Man ($132M through Sunday) and Monkey King: Hero Is Back ($95M). With industry observers predicting a $240M finish for Monster Hunt, which would put it ahead of Jurassic World‘s $229M, but still below Furious 7‘s $390M, China is gaining ground in its home base. The box office totaled 20.4B yuan ($3.28B) in the first half of 2015, according to local reports citing SAPPFRT. Of that, Middle Kingdom movies were worth 9.5B yuan versus 10.8B for foreign titles.
Hollywood is itching to get back into the world’s second biggest box office market, and will begin doing so on August 23 when Terminator: Genisys bows, followed by a crowded field that includes Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (September 8), Minions (September 13); and Pixels (September 15). Local reports put Disney’s Ant-Man on September 18 and Inside Out on October 8 but those have yet to be confirmed.