On Screen China: Back to (Monkey) Business as Usual as China Shuts Out Imports

After a long box office drought for domestic films, action-adventure pic Wu Kong — China’s latest adaptation of the universally-adored Monkey King saga — kicks off the summer blackout period and will become the first local production in 5 months to gross more than RMB 100 million ($15 million) on a single day.

Wu Kong (悟空传)

China Distribution – New Classics Pictures (新丽电影)
US Distribution – CMC Pictures (July 14 in select NA cities)

Ever since Stephen Chow’s Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (西游降魔篇) exploded at the box office in the winter of 2013, it seems like every year Chinese audiences are treated to another film adaptation of the classic novel and remarkably, their enthusiasm for any and everything Monkey King-related shows no sign of letting up.

Kicking off this year’s lucrative summer moviegoing holiday, running sans imported releases until August 25 when Baby Driver and Cars 3 hit Chinese screens, is Wu Kong, not exactly a straight adaptation from Journey to the West but rather from a popular internet novel published in 2000.

Directed by Derek Kwok — who also co-helmed Conquering the Demons with Chow — and starring Eddie Peng (Duckweed) in the titular role, Wu Kong enters Chinese cinemas with lofty box office expectations since its the first legitimate local blockbuster released since the Lunar New Year in early February.

Unfortunately, just six days before its theatrical debut, Wu Kong was leaked onto P2P file-sharing sites, and even though the pirated version is unfinished and runs 4 minutes shorter than the official theatrical release, negative word of mouth hit Chinese social media early likely affecting Wu Kong‘s box office potential.

Still, Wu Kong will become the first Chinese film in five months to lead the weekend box office charts, giving the domestic film industry a glimmer of hope entering the summer moviegoing season.