China’s booming box office hit another milestone Thursday afternoon, passing RMB 40 billion ($6.25 billion) for the first time ever in a calendar year. All 12 months of 2014 produced a box office gross of RMB 29.6 billion.
December could add an additional RMB 4 billion – 5 billion to the 2015 gross with the release of several high-profile local movies squeezing into another blackout period that will shut out imported competition. More than 30 films will be released in the “New Year’s slot” (贺岁档 hèsuì dàng), averaging one per day in the busiest and most competitive period in China’s short box office history.
Point Break (极 盗者)
Point Break, an update of Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 cult classic that starred Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, will make history this Friday when it opens in China a full three weeks ahead of its Christmas Day release in North America. Co-produced and financed by Alcon Entertainment and China-based DMG Entertainment, the extreme-sports action film held its world premiere in Beijing on Tuesday with star Luke Bracey and DMG CEO Dan Mintz walking the red carpet at a gala to launch what DMG touted as a “massive 6-month long promotional campaign to entice Chinese moviegoers via trailers, featurettes, and other promotional content.” However, Point Break lacks a social media push and is the week’s only major release without the official Weibo or WeChat accounts that have become increasingly important tools distributors use to interact with Chinese moviegoers. Point Break will debut on 14.1% of Chinese screens, behind three local films.
Oh My God (从天“儿”降)
A Caucasian baby seemingly drops from the sky to land in the laps of an ill-prepared young Chinese urban couple in this lighthearted comedy, described as a Chinese Three Men and a Baby. Directed by first-time director Wei Nan (魏楠) and starring several fresh-faced pop stars, Oh My God lacks the A-list celebrities who can lead to box office success, but both actress Zhang Ziyi (章子怡) and Guo Jingming (郭敬明)—writer and director of the successful Tiny Times series—signed on as co-producers. This is third film Zhang has produced after 2009’s Sophie’s Revenge ($15.2 million gross in China) and its 2013 prequel My Lucky Star ($22.8 million). Mu Xin, manager of a movie theater in Shijiazhuang in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing, expects solid results from Oh My God. He told Real Time Box Office that after the film’s release date was set, “many fans made block reservations at my theater and anything that Guo Jingming holds the reins to becomes box-office gold.” Oh My God opens on Friday with a 16.9% share of China’s screens.
In the Spring of 2014, the science fiction comedy Impossible was in the midst of post-production when Hong Kong comedic actor Chapman To (杜汶泽) drew the ire of Mainland netizens for his expressing support for Taiwan’s Sunflower student movement, resulting in calls for a boycott of To’s films. After To’s two subsequent movies underwhelmed at the box office, Impossible’s producers decided to reshoot To’s scenes with mainland comedic juggernaut Da Peng (大鹏) in his stead. Da Peng—who wrote and directed this summer’s blockbuster Jianbing Man ($187 million)—teams up in this film with two other popular funnymen: Wang Baoqiang (王宝强) and Xiao Shenyang (小沈阳). Pixomondo, the firm in charge of Hugo’s Academy Award-winning visual effects as well as the dragons in Game of Thrones, is also behind the VFX in Impossible.
The other new releases playing this crowded weekend are the romantic drama Fall in Love Like a Star (怦然星动), which debuted on Thursday with $4.1 million (besting The Martian’s gross for the day), and the contemporary romance sequel Go Lala Go 2 (杜拉拉追婚记), co-produced by Fox International Channels.