China Box Office: ‘Kong’ Sees That Your Grave Is Swept Clean

Kong: Skull Island whisked away three new local challengers to capture the three-day Qingming Festival, but despite some extra padding, the holiday’s total box office remained flat from last year.

According to box office data from Maoyan, ticket receipts across the three-day Qingming or Tomb Sweeping Festival totaled RMB 587 million ($85.1 million), essentially flat compared to last year’s holiday. Setting aside the online ticketing surcharges, however, which regulators started to bundle in with box office grosses at the beginning of 2017, Qingming’s total box office came to just RMB 554 million ($80.4 million), a 5% decline from last year’s performance.

Three local productions were given wide releases for the holiday, yet only one – a localized adaptation of the Japanese crime novel, The Devotion of Suspect X – managed to challenge Kong’s reign atop the box office charts, and even that was short-lived. Thanks to a raft of subsidized tickets, Suspect X (which CFI does not rate highly) debuted in first on its opening Friday but quickly dropped amid mixed word-of-mouth. For the three-day holiday, The Devotion of Suspect X grossed RMB 163 million ($23.7 million) compared to Kong’s RMB 213 million ($30.9 million) despite securing a greater number of screenings

Meanwhile, Kong: Skull Island continued to scale ever new heights on its quest to become the year’s highest-grossing import, and has now earned RMB 964 million ($139.8 million). The Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures “MonsterVerse” installment – with local support from Wanda and Tencent – should ultimately eke pass both Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage before ceding the throne to Fate of the Furious which opens day-and-date on Friday, April 14.

Combined, Kong and Suspect X claimed two-thirds of Qingming’s moviegoing business, leaving scant market space for other players.

In a distant third and fourth place, action films Extraordinary Mission and The Missing earned RMB 61 million ($8.8 million) and RMB 37 million ($5.4 million) respectively over the three-day public holiday.

In particular, The Missing’s box office disappointment surprised  many observers, given the popularity of director/actress Xu Jinglei and box office queen, Bai Baihe. Critics harshed on Xu (Dear Enemy, Go Lala Go!) for her decision to move away from the kind of romantic fare aimed at female moviegoers in which she had found box office success in the past.

In fifth place, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast added RMB 27 million ($3.9 million) to its coffers, lifting it to a somewhat muted cume of RMB 541 million ($78.5 million).

Seven new releases hit theaters on Friday, April 7, including Paramount’s Ghost in the Shell, which will be looking to offset its  North American flameout this past weekend with a robust Chinese performance. Stay tuned to CFI’s box office preview Thursday to see if it has a shot.