Lunar New Year revives the joy of the Chinese box office

The Chinese New Year festivities have brought back scenes that haven’t been seen in mainland Chinese theaters for a year: a slew of new titles and crowds to match.

Few records will be broken. But after several months of desertification, the rush of returning moviegoers may be a relief for the industry as a whole.

On Saturday the holiday period began, marked by family gatherings. New releases of some of the most anticipated films of the year followed on Sunday.

Most prominent were “The Wandering Earth 2,” a prequel to a 2019 sci-fi blockbuster, and Zhang Yimou’s historical comedy thriller “Full River Red.”

Claiming the top spot, “The Wandering Earth 2” earned nearly $71 million on its opening day ahead of “Full River Red,” which earned a mere $60 million. Third, fourth and fifth place went to a trio of upcoming, back-to-back performances from the $20.4 million World War II spy thriller “Hidden Blade,” the animated franchise film “Boonie Bears: Guardian Code” ($19 .8 million) and “Five Hundred Miles” ($18.9 million). The animated children’s film “Deep Sea” ranked fifth with $10.8 million.

Monday’s performances saw “The Wandering Earth 2” and “Full River Red” trade places on the charts as the sci-fi story fell to $55 million on its second day. “Boonie Bears: Guardian Code” also earned a spot, beating out “Hidden Blade” with a second day of $18 million.

Tuesday witnessed another shakeup when “Ping-Pong of China” opened on January 24 and grossed $44 million on the first day.

After the third day of the new movie season, “Full River Red” raked in $187 million, “Wandering Earth 2” $181 million, “Boonie Bears: Guardian Code” $60.6 million and “Hidden Blade” $53.8 million. One Day Ping-Pong Performance” was good enough for fifth.

The first-day total was 1.34 billion yuan ($198 million) earned from some 24 million tickets sold, according to the Beacon tracking service. That was down from the 1.45 million RMB earned in 2021 and the 1.670 million RMB earned on the first day of the Christmas season last year.

But after the COVID-induced second-half malaise sent last year’s overall box office tumbling by 36% (to about RMB30 billion, compared with RMB47 billion in 2021), a recovery has at least begun. The top six Chinese New Year titles earned a combined total of $604 million in three days.

State-controlled media praised the performance of Chinese-made films in the period and estimated China’s year-to-date box office performance to be higher than North America’s, though it was comparing a peak holiday season. in one with a normal. slow month in USA.

Giant-screen cinema provider Imax reported that 2023 was its second best Chinese New Year opening day. Its more than 700 screens in China earned $7 million on Sunday, with “The Wandering Earth 2” accounting for about $6 million of that.

The company has worked in recent years to expand its operation with local filmmakers and production companies. The Chinese New Year list includes four local language titles “The Wandering Earth 2”, “Full River Red”, “Hidden Blade” and “Deep Sea”.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” recently received a release extension that allows it to play for a second month and during a time normally reserved by regulators for the release of Chinese-language films. As the screens shifted to the titles of the new releases, its earnings plunged unsurprisingly: to less than $100,000 on Sunday in 210 sessions. By Tuesday, he was picking up a bit and took $720,000 from nearly 2,000 sessions. After 40 days in Chinese theaters, “Avatar 2” has grossed $235 million.

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