China Box Office: ‘Mekong’ Still Tops Spielberg’s ‘BFG’

Steven Spielberg’s The BFG wasn’t as big or giant as Operation: Mekongwhich is approaching the RMB 1 billion mark, the sixth film to do so this year.

Spielberg at Tsinghua University after an onstage conversation with Chinese film critic Raymond Zhou (Courtesy Mtime)

Spielberg at Tsinghua University after an onstage conversation with Chinese film critic Raymond Zhou (Courtesy Mtime)

After a temporary thaw due to increased ticket sales during the week-long National Day Holiday, China’s stagnating film market returned to icy waters this week as Disney’s The BFG failed to enthrall Chinese moviegoers.

Box office revenue from the week starting Monday, October 10 through Sunday, October 16 tallied RMB 593 million (US$88 million), tumbling 52 percent from the heights of the holiday period.

Retaining first place over the weekend, director Dante Lam’s Operation Mekong (湄公河行动) continued churning upstream to the RMB 1 billion mark. Through Sunday, October 16, the action/thriller, based on the real-life hunt for a Burmese drug lord accused of murdering 13 Chinese nationals in 2011, has grossed RMB 950 million ($141.8 million), according to Shanghai entertainment consulting firm Artisan Gateway.

Later this week, Operation Mekong will likely become the sixth domestic film of 2016 — including the US-China co-production Kung Fu Panda 3 — to gross RMB 1 billion (~$150 million); only five local films crossed that threshold in 2015.

Steven Spielberg’s latest The BFG opened on Friday, earning second place this weekend with RMB 91 million ($13.5 million). The BFG’s haul slightly exceeded CFI’s initial predictions, but it managed a paltry average of only 17 moviegoers per screening (compared to Operation Mekong’s 31), meaning its screen total will fall off dramatically next weekend.

Chinese commentators and moviegoers seem to have missed the memo that The BFG was adapted from a Roald Dahl children’s book since many online reviews criticized Spielberg for making the film “too juvenile” for adults (in Chinese).

China’s box office charts will be completely reshuffled on Friday, October 21, as several new releases open including Paramount’s Jack Reacher: Never Go Back starring Tom Cruise, and Mechanic: Resurrection,  with perennial Chinese favorite Jason Statham. CFI will provide box office predictions and analysis in Thursday’s On Screen China, but expect Statham to pull off the improbable upset.