‘Huntsman’ and Local Film ‘Yesterday’ No Match for ‘Jungle Book’ Fever

  • The Jungle Book follows animation pattern: quiet weekday B.O., then explosive weekends
  • The Jungle Book’s 10-day total at $99 million, putting $150 million in its sights
  • Yesterday, Once More and The Huntsman gross $15.3M and $10.6M, respectively
Popular fashion icons Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt couldn’t save The Huntsman from a chilly opening weekend in China. (Courtesy Mtime)

Fashion icons Emily Blunt (L) and Charlize Theron (R) couldn’t save The Huntsman from freezing up in China. (Courtesy Mtime)

Disney’s The Jungle Book (奇幻森林) swung to an easy holdover victory at the Chinese box office this weekend, keeping new releases Yesterday Once More (谁的青春不迷茫) and The Huntsman: Winter’s War (猎神:冬日之战) at bay in a distant second and third position.

Director Jon Favreau’s family friendly live-action remake of Disney’s classic 1967 animation is unsurprisingly performing like many successful animated films do in China. They start with relatively light weekday ticket sales followed by explosive weekends when parents are free to accompany their children to cinemas.

Saturday’s box office for The Jungle Book more than doubled Friday’s and overall, The Jungle Book fell just 39% from its debut weekend, earning RMB 192.5 million ($29.6 million) from Friday through Sunday and lifting its 10-day cumulative total to RMB 642.2 million ($98.8 million).

The Jungle Book’s impressive second weekend performance came despite losing a third of its screens, and indicates strong staying power for the rest of its run through the May Day Holiday. Moreover, as the only film targeting families for the next few weeks, The Jungle Book stands a chance of grossing $150 million and surviving the May 6 invasion by Captain America.

Early estimates for Monday have pushed The Jungle Book over $100 million, making it Disney’s fourth-straight film to gross $100 million at the Chinese box office after Antman ($105.4M), Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($125.4M) and Zootopia ($236.1M).

In a distant second place, the romantic drama Yesterday Once More grossed just RMB 99.4 million ($15.3 million), well below CFI’s expectations. Chinese audiences are finally seeming to tire of the nostalgic and melodramatic tropes found in these “youthfulness” films. The genre (called qīngchūn piàn 青春片) rose to popularity in 2011 with You Are The Apple of My Eye, but that fervor has waned in the past year as film after film trots out the same cliched plots and hackneyed characters.

Yesterday Once More was skewered online by Chinese netizens and critics alike. One of the top comments on cultural website Douban gave the film a 6-out-of-10 rating because “Hey, at least there weren’t any abortions, right?!” referencing one of the more contrived narrative elements utilized in almost every “youthfulness” film. Overall, Douban’s aggregate rating was 6.5/10.

Further behind, Universal Studio’s fantasy/adventure The Huntsman: Winter’s War got a chilly reception, grossing only RMB 68.8 million ($10.6 million) over the weekend. The good-looking and fashionable cast (highlighted to Chinese theaters in film promo materials) — featuring Charlize Theron, well-known in China for her Dior ads, and Emily Blunt, recognized for her role in The Devil Wears Prada — couldn’t save the film’s convoluted and messy story.

“I went to see this movie because of Theron and Blunt. I just never expected the script to be so retarded,” wrote one Douban user.