Christmas may not be an official holiday in atheist China, but its citizens still embrace the holiday spirit with one downright American yuletide tradition — shopping.
In recent years, it has become trendy for young urban couples to spend Christmas Eve in the cozy confines of giant shopping malls taking advantage of holiday sales. And what’s a fashionable couple to do after all that heavy lifting? Why — in an odd twist on current Jewish-American Christmas customs — avail themselves of a Western dinner and a Chinese movie, of course!
Last year, the gritty crime noir Mr. Six (老炮儿) and the oddball comedy Devil and Angel (恶棍天使) swooped in for the holiday kill. Devil and Angel overcame caustic reviews to win the four-day weekend with US$78 million in ticket sales and Mr. Six rode a wave of stellar word of mouth to its own $39 million coup.
With the wide releases of both Jackie Chan’s Railroad Tigers and the Wong Kar-Wai-produced romantic comedy, See You Tomorrow (known until recently by the English title Ferryman) dominating Chinese theaters this weekend, The Great Wall will lose more than half of its screens. Luckily, it will still retain most of its premium-priced IMAX screenings, softening what could have been a disastrous second-weekend fall.
In a disappointing year at Chinese cineplexes, where the annual box office will likely finally eke past 2015’s RMB 44.1 billion ($6.8 billion) this weekend, will the new holiday releases —See You Tomorrow and Railroad Tigers — replicate last year’s success?
See You Tomorrow will open on 39 percent of China’s 41,000 screens on Friday and will easily win the weekend over Chan’s Railroad Tigers and Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall. CFI predicts RMB 400-450 million (~$60 million) this weekend and RMB 850 million ($120 million) total.
Whereas many of Jackie Chan’s previous offerings presented the martial arts master front and center, Railroad Tigers harkens back to Chan’s Lucky Stars (五福星) comedies of the 80s/90s era that featured an ensemble cast of well-known Hong Kong film stars. Here, Chan is joined by several “Little Fresh Meats” including Huang Zitao (黄子韬), a former member of Korean boy band EXO.
Beijing-based Weiying Technology (微影时代), whose new distribution arm Yuyue Film (娱跃影业) is releasing Railroad Tigers, believes the film’s multigenerational cast and patriotic sentiment will help it find a large audience across several demographics similar to Tsui Hark’s The Taking Tiger Mountain. That film grossed RMB 881 million ($141 million) in the same pre-Christmas frame in 2014.
Weiying’s CEO Lin Ning (林宁) has expressed such confidence in Railroad Tigers box office potential that he’s signed a RMB 1 billion box office minimum guarantee agreement with the film’s production company Yaolai Entertainment (耀莱影视).