Despite tepid audience reaction, fantasy-action pic Wu Kong became the first local production in 165 days to win China’s weekend box office crown.
After months of market dominance by imported films, China’s summer blackout period kicked off in full force this weekend, giving domestic films four out of the top five positions at the box office.
Wu Kong (悟空传) — an adaptation of a popular internet novel following the mischievous Sun Wukong, better known to Western audiences as the Monkey King — accounted for more than half of all movie tickets sold between Thursday and Sunday, debuting mightily in first place with RMB 359 million* ($53.1 million).
Helmed by Hong Kong’s Derek Kwok (Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons), starring Eddie Peng (Duckweed) as Sun Wukong and distributed by New Classics Media, Wu Kong needed just four days to become the highest-grossing domestic film released since the lucrative Lunar New Year period back in February.
Wu Kong‘s strong box office performance came despite an early leak of a shortened, unfinished version onto file-sharing sites last week, but middling word of mouth from Chinese moviegoers will put the film on a similar sub-2X opening weekend multiplier that has afflicted many Hollywood releases in 2017. Wu Kong will be lucky to hit $100 million total.
In second place, Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me 3 dropped 66% from its record-smashing opening weekend to RMB 136 million* ($20.1 million). After just ten days of release, Gru and his Minions have grossed RMB 727 million ($107.6 million) and stand as the second highest-grossing imported animation behind Disney’s Zootopia**.
Wu Kong and Despicable Me 3 combined for 75% market share this weekend leaving little room for other competition.
Third and fourth place went to two new mid-budget local productions, the sci-fi comedy Meow (猫星人) and the dystopian animation Dahufa (大护法), which debuted with RMB 28 million* ($4.2 million) and RMB 24 million* ($3.5 million) respectively.
Rounding out the top five, domestic horror sequel The House That Never Dies II (京城81号2) plummeted 86% on its second weekend of release. The film has grossed RMB 189 million* ($27.9 million) in 11 days.
*All listed grosses in this article are adjusted to remove online ticketing fees. For a primer on why CFI reports this way, see here.
**Kung Fu Panda 3 is a co-production meaning its box office is counted towards domestic