Matt Damon's Chinese monster epic slipped to third place in its second weekend, as Jack Ma's film studio released its first feature and Jackie Chan returned to the screen with 'Railroad Tigers.'
Chinese romantic comedy See You Tomorrow delivered a Christmas weekend win for Jack Ma's startup film studio Alibaba Pictures Group. Opening to $40.3 million, the Wong Kar Wai-produced feature topped Legendary Entertainment's The Great Wall in its second weekend, and also beat the opening of Jackie Chan's latest action-comedy vehicle, Railroad Tigers.
Of course, Christmas is not a national holiday in China, where the government endorses a secular, Confucianist-tinged tradition. But in recent years Christmas season has emerged as a popular shopping and date-night occasion among young urban Chinese, usually resulting in a healthy box-office frame.
Both See You Tomorrow and Railroad Tigers were hit with tepid-to-negative reviews and weak word of mouth, however, and they opened below local forecasts. Their soft debuts appear to have helped The Great Wall escape a steeper slide. Other holdover titles benefited from slight increases on Saturday and Sunday, as the bad buzz took its toll on the two frontrunners.
Although Alibaba Pictures has co-financed and marketed several Paramount tentpoles in China (Mission: Impossible 5, TMNT 2), See You Tomorrow (formerly known as The Ferryman) is the first feature to fully originate from the studio. It was developed and produced through a partnership with Wong's Jettone films and features an all-star cast including Tony Leung (In the Mood for Love), Takeshi Kineshiro (Chungking Express) and Angelababy (Independence Day: Resurgence). Adapted by first-time director Zhang Jiajia from his own short story, the film tells the story of a bar owner who ferries lonely people through the doldrums of colorful breakups.
Jackie Chan's Railroad Tigers, which follows a group of ragtag railwaymen who defy the Japanese during WWII to deliver food to starving Chinese, opened to $31.1 million. The film is directed by former Chan collaborator Ding Sheng (Police Story 2013) and produced by Shanghai Film Group and Yaolai Entertainment Media. Weiying Technology, the Beijing-based internet company behind China's leading mobile ticketing app Wepiao, released the film through its startup film distribution arm, Yuyue Film.
See You Tomorrow and Railroad Tigers currently have ratings of 4.4 and 5.7, respectively, on leading online reviews site Douban, and 5.3 and 6 on parallel service Mtime — slightly worse than The Great Wall's scores of 5.5 and 7.
The Great Wall earned $26.4 in its second weekend, a 61 percent slide from its $67.4 million opening weekend haul. That's slightly less than the 64 percent fall Legendary's Warcraft experienced in its second weekend in June. But with $120.1 million after 10 days, The Great Wall won't come close to matching Warcraft's historic $220.8 million China total — perhaps disappointing given that The Great Wall cost over $150 to make and is the biggest China-Hollywood co-production ever. The film is directed by Chinese legend Zhang Yimou and co-produced by China Film Group and Le Vision Pictures. It is now the twelfth biggest film of the year, ahead of Hollywood imports like X-Men: Apocalypse and Doctor Strange, but behind others such as The Jungle Book and Captain America: Civil War.
Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge, continued its stunning run in China in its third weekend, adding $4.3 million. With $45 million after 18 days, the movie has earned 8x more in China than any other international territory (Australia is no. 2 with $5.6 million). The film cost $40 million to make and took $64.2 million in North America. Gibson's bloody WWII saga — about American combat medic and pacifist Desmond Doss — has proved especially popular with young Chinese men, among whom WoM is effusive (the film is rated 8.8 and 8.4 on Douban and Mtime).
On the animation front, Disney's Moana earned $1.7 million, bringing its 31-day total to $30.3 million; and Japanese anime hit Your Name took $1 million for a 24-day cumulative of $80.4 million — the biggest China haul ever by a Japanese film.
The next studio releases in China will be Bridget Jones's Baby on Jan. 1 and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Jan. 6, followed by Kubo and The Two Strings on Jan. 13.
China's full-year box office data is expected to be released by regulators on Jan. 1. The latest projections point to single-digit growth — the slowest rate of expansion by the world's current no. 2 film market in over a decade.
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