Could ‘Journey to the West’ Be China’s Next Box Office Champ?

Two giants of Chinese cinema look to break box office records with their upcoming Chinese New Year release, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons 2.


Two legends of Chinese cinema are teaming up for a sequel to a screen adaptation of one of China’s favorite stories, an effort that could topple existing box office records.

Set for release on January 28, 2017, the first day of Chinese New Year/Spring Festival celebrations, Hong Kong directors The Mermaid‘s Stephen Chow and Once Upon a Time in China‘s Tsui Hark will present Journey to the WestConquering the Demons 2, a sequel to Chow’s 2013 take on Journey to the West, one of China’s four classic works of literature.

Chow is once again in the Spring Festival’s director’s chair, with his Mermaid, now China’s all-time box office champion, also debuting on the first day of the holiday this year, before going on to take in over US$500 million.

Tsui makes a cameo in Mermaid as an actor, but had no directorial role in the film. The man who made Jet Li a star in the West will direct a Journey to the West script written and executive produced by Chow.  Chow’s original Journey took in over $200 million in 2013.

Demons 2 will demonstrate whether audiences in China have the same enthusiasm for cinema in the Year of the Rooster as they have in the past. In this Year of the Monkey, which would seem a better time to release film versions of the Monkey King story, box office revenues have been down for the first time in five years, although locally-produced films have outpaced Hollywood productions as box office draws.

The film will also test moviegoers’ appetite for more takes on the Journey to the West/Monkey King story. Action star Donnie Yen took a swing at it in the 2014 movie The Monkey King, followed by a sequel earlier this year, in which Hong Kong veteran pretty boy Aaron Kwok replaced Yen. China’s nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film, Xuanzang, covers the same ground, although is a more traditional re-telling of the story, focusing on the title character, Xuan Zang, the monk who brought Buddhism to China.