As Chinese New Year officially swung into gear on Saturday, so did five local movies that together boosted Middle Kingdom box office with upwards of $200M across the 2-day frame. Chief among the new entries is Journey To The West: The Demons Strike Back, a sequel to Stephen Chow’s 2013 hit Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons. The highly-anticipated fantasy set PROC and IMAX opening records on Saturday and is currently at an average estimated $85M with Sunday included.
Official figures on all China titles are still to come, but with an estimated RMB 360 ($52.3M) on Saturday, the Tsui Hark-helmed Journey To The West 2 had the best first-day ever for a Chinese movie. It topped last year’s The Mermaid which had also launched the Lunar New Year (on a Monday) with RMB 270M ($41M at historical rates) and went on to be China’s highest-grossing homegrown movie ever with $527M. The all-time leader for opening day Middle Kingdom gross remains Universal’s Furious 7 with RMB 420M ($68.8M) in April 2015.
In IMAX, JTTW2 was on 390 screens this weekend for $4.5M on opening day. That was good for the format’s best day and best first-day ever for a local-language title. It is also the best Chinese New Year opening day for IMAX, and 3rd best day ever of any title in the market after Warcraft and Furious 7. IMAX was in 17 of the top 20 Middle Kingdom locations on JTTW2 and the full 2-day weekend was worth $7.4M.
This is typically the most lucrative time of year for local films and China could use a shot in the arm after 2016 growth slowed to just 3.8%. Of the top 10 films in China in 2016, three were launched with the Spring Festival, accumulating $884M in combined box office.
The Top 5 movies in China this weekend — all new releases for the Spring Festival — made a combined estimated average of $205.6M. Last year, the Top 3 titles that kicked off the holiday together pulled in $92M on their first day. This year, the comparable figure is a little above that at roughly $94.5M.
It’s early to make a call as to what this frame’s fortunes mean for the New Year period overall — the next major Hollywood title arrives on February 10 in the form of xXx: Return Of Xander Cage. The midweeks will be key here. But, according to current and unofficial estimates, JTTW2 saw a 32% drop from Saturday to Sunday. It’s carrying a middling 5.5 rating on local site Douban with about 57K people chiming in.
Below Journey To The West: The Demons Strike Back are Buddies In India (avg est $44.83M); Jackie Chan-starrer Kung Fu Yoga (avg est $39.14M); father/son drama Duckweed (avg est $18.96M) and kids pic Boonie Bears: Entangled Worlds (avg est $17.9M). We’ll update with more concrete numbers when they become available.
As it did on Chow’s The Mermaid, Sony acquired some offshore markets on JTTW2 and opened this frame in six for $2.2M over the 2-day. It releases in North America next frame.