Writer-director Chen Sicheng’s Detective Chinatown 2 has surged ahead of Monster Hunt 2 at the Chinese box office with $305 million through today, Wednesday. That leaves Monster Hunt 2, the Raman Hui-directed fantasy pic that shattered single-day records on Friday, in its wake at about $269M. At the same time, Operation Red Sea, an action thriller from Bona Film and director Dante Lam (Operation Mekong), has seen steady increases since it opened Friday while the other two big-ticket titles have dipped each day. Front-loading and confusion, thy name is Chinese New Year.
Edko’s Monster Hunt 2, the presumed winner this weekend after a then-record-breaking (but contested) performance for the original in 2015, saw a roughly 32% drop on Saturday, and on Sunday was eclipsed by the more popular comedy sequel DC2 in the daily standings. Wanda’s DC2 has now held the top position over the past four days and has become only the 5th film to ever cross $300M locally. This is a turnaround that we’ve seen before in the wild Lunar New Year period.
In 2017, the presumed frontrunner going into the holiday was Journey To The West: The Demons Strike Back, but it was Jackie Chan-starrer Kung Fu Yoga that landed higher on the year-end charts, opening to just $38.8M and ending with $254.5M.
This year’s seven-day New Year holiday concludes today with folks back at work from tomorrow. In the meantime, there’s been a comer in the mix of Monster Hunt and Detective sequels. Through Wednesday, Operation Red Sea is at $188.4M after bowing to $20.3M.
And this will likely have legs. Now that the masses have run to the two titles above with their families whilst visiting during the holiday period we should see a change. Chinese box office is notoriously difficult to project, but as people head back to the Tier 1 and 2 cities, after spending time in what is referred to as the lower tier cities, Operation Red Sea could see a surge. I understand that IMAX, which smartly programmed all three titles on its Middle Kingdom screens at open, will lean more towards Red Sea in the next two weekends. Already on Tuesday, the film topped both DC2 and a diminishing MH2 in the large format.
A source on the ground in the Middle Kingdom tells me some insiders believe Operation Red Sea could ultimately get close to the Detective Chinatown 2 numbers when all is said and done, although it clearly has a lot of ground to make up. The film has the highest critical score with an 8.5 on reviews site Douban. DC2 is at 7.2 and Monster Hunt 2 is all the way down at 5.2 (the first one had a 6.7). I’m told audiences were disappointed in Monster Hunt 2 because the monster of the title is not as present as hoped.
While Operation Red Sea doesn’t open in the U.S. until February 23, the past weekend saw Lionsgate Premiere release Edko’s Monster Hunt 2 at 69 locations for $400K across the four-day. Warner Bros has domestic on Detective Chinatown 2 which was the winner among new Chinese titles this weekend with $800K at 115 theaters; through Tuesday it’s at $980K. WB created a customized campaign to reach Chinese-speaking millennial moviegoers, with an integrated strategy that incorporated elements of grassroots marketing, influencer engagement and digital. With more than 329,000 Chinese studying in the U.S. being the core demo for the film, WB hyper-targeted colleges with high concentrations of students from China. DC2 is also the first film created and managed by Chinese companies to be shot in the U.S. in collaboration with the unions.