The Chinese box office racked up the largest seven-day gross in the history of the movies anywhere, with Valentine’s Day ticket sales in the world’s second largest movie market putting an exclamation point on the achievement.
An estimated RMB 3.56 billion ($548 million) in tickets were sold over the seven-day Lunar New Year period starting Monday, February 8, a gross that was expected to rise as several hundred theaters had yet to report revenues at press time.
Not only was this the highest-grossing week of all-time in China, but the highest-grossing week of all-time in any territory, shattering the North American record of $529.6 million, set from December 26, 2015 to January 1, 2016.
While the record week in North America was led by just one film — Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with a gross of $261 million — China’s (and now the world’s) largest moviegoing week was led by three homegrown Chinese-language films that dominated the box office with a combined 94% market share.
In a commanding first place, Stephen Chow’s comedy The Mermaid (美人鱼) earned RMB 1.79 billion ($274.9 million) over the seven day holiday and is already the fourth highest-grossing film in Chinese film history. With positive word of mouth and an additional week of winter holiday for students, The Mermaid could swim past current record holder Monster Hunt ($381 million at current exchange rates) sometime this week.
With hundreds of millions of moviegoing Chinese off of work for a week and a blossoming of operating theaters (with 33,000 screens at last count) there was plenty of remaining market space for two movie sequels to succeed over the holiday as well. Crime comedy From Vegas To Macau III (澳门风云3) netted RMB 775 million ($119.3 million), and enduring favorite The Monkey King 2 (西游记之孙悟空三打白骨精) found RMB 763 million ($117.4 million) in sales.
Through Sunday, China’s February gross box office of $622 million had outpaced by 42% gross sales recorded in North America ($437.2 million). February is likely become only the second month ever that China will beat Hollywood in movie ticket sales.
Year-to-date, North America ($1.47 billion) still leads China ($1.21 billion), but Hollywood should start getting used to the feeling of dragon fire on its neck.
—Follow Jonathan Papish on Twitter @ChinaBoxOffice