The body-swapping mixed martial arts comedy Never Say Die emerged as National Day’s clear box office victor, pummeling a field of competitive action films including Jackie Chan & Pierce Brosnan‘s The Foreigner.
China’s undisputed “King of Comedy” may still be Stephen Chow — the venerable Hong Kong funnyman and most recently, director of 2016’s The Mermaid which currently sits as the second highest-grossing film ever in the territory — but a formidable challenger has stepped into the ring: Mahua Funage (开心麻花).
Originally formed in 2003 as a theatrical comedic troupe, Mahua Funage brought its first stage play to the big screen two years ago with Goodbye Mr. Loser (夏洛特烦恼). The time-traveling comedy was a massive sleeper hit, coming out of nowhere to outgross Lost in Hong Kong (港囧) as 2015’s National Holiday champion and went on to gross RMB 1.442 billion ($226 million).
Box office expectations were naturally high for Mahua’s newest film Never Say Die (羞羞的铁拳), adapted from a 2014 stage play of the same name, and it didn’t disappoint.
Never Say Die opened Saturday, September 30 and in four days it has racked up RMB 633 million* ($95.3 million) in ticket sales. With five days left in the public holiday and no sign of waning demand, Never Say Die is headed for an RMB 2 billion ($300 million) finish.
Strong pre-sales for the remaining holiday wide releases originally suggested robust box office returns across the board, but once heavily subsidized tickets quickly disappeared, those expectations quickly fizzled as well.
In a distant second place, the Chinese-British co-production The Foreigner (英伦对决) starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan as adversaries scored a four-day debut of RMB 233 million* ($35.1 million).
Chan had been able to pull in big box office numbers with his two previous freewheeling entries Kung Fu Yoga ($254.5 million) and Railroad Tigers ($101.5 million), but the commercial prospects of a dark thriller involving North Irish political intrigue don’t exactly scream “mainstream” in the Chinese market.
Andy Lau and Donnie Yen’s old-school Hong Kong gangster flick Chasing the Dragon (追龙) took third place, opening with RMB 179 million* ($26.9 million), while the propaganda-tinged Sky Hunter (天空猫) and comedian Da Peng’s sophomore directorial effort City of Rock (缝纫机乐队) debuted in far-off fourth and fifth places with RMB 128 million* ($19.2 million) and RMB 120 million* ($18.1 million) respectively, despite both opening a day earlier on Friday, September 29.
All of the aforementioned National Day films are receiving North American releases. CFI urges all interested readers to click the links above which will take you to the distributor websites for a list of theaters. Go watch Chinese films!
*All listed grosses in this article are adjusted to remove online ticketing fees. For a primer on why CFI reports this way, see here.